Holding the handrail of justice

TENIR LA MAIN COURANTE

TENIR LA MAIN COURANTE

On behalf of the news media, I would like to extend a thank you to Bela Kosoian and Laval police.

Our jobs can be hard sometimes, and during these spring months, as everyone goes outside and tries out their BIXIs and stuff, it’s hard to find something to be unequivocably outraged about.

But a Globe and Mail story came out on Saturday reported a woman was fined for not holding the handrail on an escalator (and not following police demands that she do so), and the need for outrage was obvious.

Reporters filed stories about her ordeal, photographers took pictures of a sad-faced woman holding a ticket in front of an escalator, columnists turned the outrage meter to 11 and bloggers just went ahead and called Laval police Nazisrepeatedly.

It even got some international attention in the “news of the weird” category, and a mention on Boing Boing, which was in turn Dugg.

For the benefit of those who haven’t gotten the story emailed or Facebooked to them a thousand times already, here’s what supposedly happened:

Kosoian, a 38-year-old student and mother, was heading down an escalator at the Montmorency metro station, and either ignored, didn’t hear or didn’t understand repeated instructions from a Laval police officer to hold the handrail. When she got to the bottom, she was handcuffed and issued two fines: One for not holding the handrail ($100) and another for obstruction ($320). Oh, and she also says there was OMGPOLICEBRUTALITY!!! because the handcuffs were too tight.

There’s no specific provision in the STM’s regulations that requires holding handrails on escalators, so a more general one was cited instead:

4. Dans ou sur un immeuble ou du matériel roulant, il est interdit à toute personne:

e) de désobéir à une directive ou un pictogramme, affiché par la Société;

Of course, the fine was excessive and the supposed infraction entirely benign (the escalator pictogram also prohibits strollers, a provision which is also routinely ignored). Even the STM said they don’t fine people for such things.

Kosoian will probably win her case in court, if it isn’t dropped outright by the prosecutor, especially after all this media coverage. Laval police, for their part, are justifying the actions of their officers, but that kind of blind loyalty is to be expected, especially where the officers were technically in the legal right to do what they did.

For next week, can we get a phone company who’s abusing a grandmother by not letting her cancel her service?

27 thoughts on “Holding the handrail of justice

  1. Horonymous

    The police will let us know what is good for us.
    Glad to see all other serious crimes have been dealt with in Laval.

    Reply
  2. steve81

    Why do you assume she will win her case in court? She admits that she didn’t hold the ramp after being asked to and she also admits arguing with the officer when he wanted to give her a ticket. It’s not because a by-law is ridiculous (in this case) that it can’t be enforced. As for the fine being excessive :

    17. Quiconque contrevient à l’un des articles 4 a), 4 b), 4 c), 4 d), 4 e), 4 f), 4 h), 4 i), 4 k), 4 n), 4 o), 4 p); 8; 10 c), 10 e), 10 f); 11 d), 11 f); 12 a), 12 b); 14 a); 15 a), 15 b), 15 c), 15 d), 15 e), 15 f), 15 g), 15 h), 15 i), 15 j), 15 k), 15 l) ou 15 m) du présent règlement commet une infraction et est passible d’une amende de 75 $ à 500 $.

    She was fined $100, that doesn’t seem excessive considering the by-law.

    As for the second fine ($320), see section 146 of An Act respecting Public transit authorities:

    146. Every person who uses the name of a transit authority, its acronym, emblem or logo without authorization or hinders an inspector in the exercise of the inspector’s functions is liable to a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $500.

    Doesn’t seem excessive again. If you commit an offense and an inspector asks you to identify yourself, you must give your name, address and date of birth. If you refuse to do so, you can get a second fine. How do you think the inspector can give you the first fine without your ID?

    The only ground to contest this might be the handcuffing & throwing in a small holding cell (if it was excessive). But we don’t have much information about how it came to that, other than the fact that she argued with the police and that the police searched her bag (probably to get her ID to issue the fines).

    If she loses in court, she will have to pay the fines plus court fees.

    Reply
  3. ladyjaye75

    BTW, on the article posted on Cyberpresse (not the blog entry by Patrick Lagacé), we can see a picture of Bela Kosoian in front of an escalator with a person in the background NOT holding the handrail…

    Reply
  4. Jean Naimard

    Laval is currently in a budget crunch, courtesy of the Maddofs and company south-of-the-border, so they are likely to have issued directives to their pigs to increase revenue through ticketing.

    Reply
  5. jennyb

    thanks for clearing up the fact that it isn’t actually an obligation to hold the rail. Where does one see the STM rule book anyway?
    clear abuse of power, I don’t care how much she bitched about getting caught.

    Reply
  6. steve81

    Actually, I thought about this again and she probably can win this by arguing that holding the ramp is a security recommendation, not an obligation. The sign has a yellow background and the circle around the hand on the ramp is black (not green). The only thing prohibited is strollers (red circle with a diagonal line) and it does say “Réservé aux personnes”, so persons only.

    Reply
  7. Jean Naimard

    En effet, selon les normes de signalisation routière, les informations sont présentées en fond jaune (comme les vitesses suggérées pour les rampes d’autoroute), les interdictions avec un cercle rouge barré et les obligations avec un cercle vert.

    Donc, il est fortement suggéré de tenir la rampe, et non pas obligatoire de le faire.

    Reply
  8. Marc

    It’s less about her holding the handrail and more about her absolute contempt for a figure of authority. Here we have a woman who disobeyed a direct order by the police, responding to them in a sarcastic way. She could have held the handrail when asked to and we would be talking about other things.

    Her excuse that she was fumbling for her bus pass is absolute nonsense – she could have done that with much greater ease once off the escalator. Her other excuse about catching germs was also bogus – has she not heard of those little pocket-sized things of Purell? Face it: when using the Metro, you’re going to have to touch things.

    I briefly heard her on the radio today making comments about the East Bloc. For her to make those comparisons is ridiculous and only belittles the suffering people experienced during that period in that part of the world.

    This woman claims she’s the victim. On that, she’s correct. She’s the victim of her own stupidity and got what she deserved.

    Reply
  9. Jean Naimard

     

    It’s less about her holding the handrail and more about her absolute contempt for a figure of authority.

    And, pray tell, what is wrong with expressing contempt of a figure of authority?

    Reply
  10. Marc

    Because, Jean, it was not an unreasonable order. Holding a handrail or furnishing a piece of ID when a cop observes you doing something against the law (in this case talking back to the police and being an asshole about it) is not the same as the cops ordering you to pull down your pants and dance for them. She may not have agreed with holding the handrail, but it would have saved her lots of trouble. Never ever do you assume that police, border guards, security agents, etc have a sense of humor on the job.

    Reply
  11. Jean Naimard

    Et évidemment, la version de la police est que la police est sans reproches, alors qu’il est clair qu’ils ont décidé de taper sur la femme en refusant de lui dire pour quelle raison ils l’ont arrêtée afin de la provoquer pour qu’elle refuse de s’identifier pour lui coller une amende pour “obstruction”.

    Reply
  12. Tux

    I don’t know who this Marc is but he’s making the rounds on the internet defending the cops in this case. I think he might be one of them.

    If you ask me, the cops were clearly in the wrong, and we should be investigating why exactly they do boneheaded things like this so often. (See also: Tazing people to death) Also, I think it’s good that the case got some publicity. The more public shaming the cops receive, the better. Then maybe they’ll think twice before they issue a ticket or make charges just to retaliate against someone they didn’t feel was respectful enough.

    Hardly anyone in the metro holds the handrail. We don’t, and shouldn’t, get tickets for not doing so. This woman was clearly unfairly singled out. The cops should mind their own business and stick to actual crimes that do actual harm. Where were they when that lady in her 60s got mugged at a bus stop?

    Reply
  13. Jean Naimard

    Because, Jean, it was not an unreasonable order. Holding a handrail or furnishing a piece of ID when a cop observes you doing something against the law (in this case talking back to the police and being an asshole about it)

    Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! “Talking back to the police” is against the law???
    Against which law? The “law” the cop made on the spot? Excuse me, but the only one body who can make laws here are the parliaments and city halls, and then within their own range of competence, and then they are restrcted by this. Now, where do you see that one shall not “talk back to the police”? (I won’t hold my breath). They may try to have city hall outlaw it, but they haven’t done so yet.

    is not the same as the cops ordering you to pull down your pants and dance for them. She may not have agreed with holding the handrail, but it would have saved her lots of trouble. Never ever do you assume that police, border guards, security agents, etc have a sense of humor on the job.

    Of course not. They are specially selected amongst those who are the dimmest witted possible and have their craniums specially drilled to drain any sense of humour they might have had.
    * * *
    You seem to be going a good job shilling for the bœufs… Here, we want full disclosure: are you a boeuf or in anyway involved with bœufs to back them like that?

    Reply
  14. Michel K

    OK I have a few problems with this issue:

    1) Why is it a by-law to hold the handrail? An escalator is just like a staircase, and hence doesn’t need the excessive by-law. No one has never been hurt on an escalator by not holding the handrail unless they were goffing off.

    2) Last time I checked, an STM security officer is not a police officer and hence, there is no obligation to provide identification, except to a police officer.

    3) Why doesn’t these security officers deal with all the drug-dealing and pickpocketing going on at Berri-UQAM every day?

    4) Assualting a police officer is a crime. Talking back to one isn’t. Police were just on a power trip.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      This wasn’t an STM security officer, it was Laval police.

      The obstruction charge wasn’t for talking back to police. It was for refusing to follow the orders of an officer and for refusing to provide identification (which necessitated an arrest – and handcuffs – so they could search her for ID).

      Reply
  15. Jean Naimard

    OK I have a few problems with this issue:
    1) Why is it a by-law to hold the handrail? An escalator is just like a staircase, and hence doesn’t need the excessive by-law. No one has never been hurt on an escalator by not holding the handrail unless they were goffing off.

    It’s just a standard “cover your arse” procedure, so in the event of a lawsuit, the defendant can point out ”look, I plastered warnings all over the place, so it’s their damn fault if they didn’t heed the warning”.

    2) Last time I checked, an STM security officer is not a police officer and hence, there is no obligation to provide identification, except to a police officer.

    Transit security officers DO have the standing of a peace officer (police officer), but solely on transit property and solely with regards to transit bylaws.

    3) Why doesn’t these security officers deal with all the drug-dealing and pickpocketing going on at Berri-UQAM every day?

    Because it’s much easier to pick on ex-soviet citizens who talk back to the ??????? ??????????????? ????????????.

    4) Assualting a police officer is a crime. Talking back to one isn’t. Police were just on a power trip.

    The bœufs acted improperly by not telling the girl why she was about to be given a ticket, as required in the canadian charter of rights, so they brought the whole situation upon themselves.

    Reply
  16. Pingback: Fagstein » About those escalator pictograms

  17. Mike

    Steve, I want you to think about how you’d like being treated the way Laval police treated this woman. Maybe for just one day. First, suppose you were fined every time you committed a driving infraction. Every single time. Then, let’s fine you for littering, spitting, jaywalking, and of course, not availing yourself of safety devices such as handrails. Not just escalator handrails, Steve– I mean all handrails, including stairs, shower grab bars, and elevators. Hope you’ve never downloaded music- those fines are stiff! Nor should you talk on the phone or tune the radio while driving, for fear of a fine. Nor read the paper while walking. Smoking is also dangerous, much more so than not using handrails, so let’s fine you if you smoke, too. Ditto bicycling without front & rear lights, reflectors, bright clothing, a bell, and a helmet. I’ll bet you’d be refusing ID and mouthing off to the cops in your face by 10am on such a day! (I would be in armed rebellion by 0700.) You seem to think Bela should have done as she was told. If you really think so, you’ll have to admit that you should do as you’re told also. Enjoy!

    Reply
  18. Michel K

    Too bad it wasn’t an STM security officer. Then she could have just run away. Once you’re off the property, they have no jurisdiction over you.

    Reply
  19. jame

    i ALWAYS CALLED COPS OFFFICERS AND LOOKED UP TO THEM ,BUT THAT HAS CHANGED ,PORK IS CONTAMINATED AND MAKES PEOPLE SICK EVERY NOW AND THEN. tHEY ASKED FOR THAT NAME !

    Reply
  20. ?????? ??????????

    Congratulation people!

    You are going to became tne Nazi nation :-)

    Et moi… Moi, je vais quitter votre maudite pays fasciste dans 11 mois! Yahoo!

    Reply

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