Chief sus­pended amid Mon­treal po­lice crisis

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA - GRAEME HAMIL­TON

MON­TREAL• Their job is to pro­tect the pub­lic from rot­ten of­fi­cers within the Mon­treal po­lice de­part­ment.

But the in­ter­nal af­fairs squad was “a gang of cowboys” who looked out for friends, tar­geted en­e­mies and smoth­ered com­plaints of se­ri­ous wrong­do­ing, ac­cord­ing to a re­port that has shaken the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest mu­nic­i­pal force.

Que­bec Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Martin Coi­teux an­nounced Wed­nes­day the im­me­di­ate sus­pen­sion of Mon­treal po­lice chief Philippe Pichet for up to a year, pend­ing a fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Coi­teux called the rev­e­la­tions about Mon­treal’s in­ter­nal af­fairs di­vi­sion “damn­ing” and said Pichet had not done enough to put things in or­der since he be­came chief in 2015.

The gov­ern­ment ap­pointed Martin Prud’homme, head of the provin­cial Sûreté du Québec, as act­ing chief with a man­date to clean up the in­ter­nal af­fairs di­vi­sion.

Coi­teux en­listed Michel Bouchard, a for­mer deputy min­is­ter of jus­tice, to in­ves­ti­gate last March fol­low­ing me­dia re­ports that in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors had fab­ri­cated ev­i­dence to smear po­ten­tial whistle­blow­ers within the force.

At the same time, in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors were im­pli­cated in the sur­veil­lance of jour­nal­ists in or­der to iden­tify the source of me­dia leaks, a scan­dal that led to the cre­ation of a com­mis­sion of in­quiry that has not yet sub­mit­ted its re­port.

Bouchard writes of a “crisis of con­fi­dence of (Mon­treal po­lice ser­vice) mem­bers, among them­selves and to­ward their or­ga­ni­za­tion, par­tic­u­larly in con­nec­tion with the in­ter­nal af­fairs di­vi­sion and its meth­ods.”

He cat­a­logues 17 in­ci­dents in which com­plaints were filed against po­lice of­fi­cers al­leg­ing such crim­i­nal in­frac­tions as theft, death threats, as­sault and or­ga­nized-crime ties, and noth­ing came of them.

“It would have been pos­si­ble to con­tinue list­ing files that raise se­ri­ous ques­tions about the sys­tem cre­ated by the in­ter­nal af­fairs di­vi­sion to shield in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour by cer­tain of­fi­cers from the pro­vi­sions of the Po­lice Act,” Bouchard writes. Among the tac­tics he un­cov­ered were:

❚ Ne­glect­ing to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions;

❚ Pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for high-rank­ing of­fi­cers sus­pected of mis­con­duct;

❚ Re­moval of in­for­ma­tion es­sen­tial to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to avoid the fil­ing of crim­i­nal charges; and

❚ Stalling on files so that the com­plainant would even­tu­ally give up.

While some of his rev­e­la­tions point to po­lice of­fi­cers es­cap­ing sanc­tion for their mis­deeds, Bouchard also un­cov­ered cases where ques­tion­able in­ves­ti­ga­tions were launched as part of a clan ri­valry within the force.

Bouchard in­ter­viewed dozens of cur­rent and re­tired po­lice of­fi­cers. Many, he said suf­fered the con­se­quences of seem­ingly un­jus­ti­fied in­ves­ti­ga­tions led by in­ter­nal af­fairs — bro­ken ca­reers and tar­nished rep­u­ta­tions.

He heard al­le­ga­tions of in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions “based on un­jus­ti­fied sus­pi­cions, or even worse, on bi­ased mo­tives tied to vengeance or a fear of see­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion em­bar­rassed if the tar­geted of­fi­cers’ de­sire to de­nounce ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties was not neu­tral­ized.”

Bouchard writes that a com­mon theme heard dur­ing his in­ter­views was “the ab­sence of lead­er­ship from the po­lice force’s se­nior of­fi­cers in re­cent years.” He said Pichet has not dis­played a will to in­sti­tute the “rad­i­cal change” that is re­quired.

Mon­treal Mayor Valérie Plante, who ap­peared next to Coi­teux at the news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing Pichet’s sus­pen­sion, said the prob­lems are rooted in a lack of trans­parency that has been al­lowed to con­tinue for too long. She re­as­sured Mon­treal­ers that they can “fully trust the men and women of our po­lice force who keep us safe on a daily ba­sis.”

PROB­LEMS ARE ROOTED IN A LACK OF TRANS­PARENCY.

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