The deputy director of the Montreal police service (SPVM), Bernard Lamothe, has been relieved of his functions for the duration of an investigation into allegations that the police force fabricated evidence to silence whistleblowers.
An email from police Chief Philippe Pichet, obtained by CBC's French-language network Radio-Canada, explained that the decision followed "information shared by the Sûreté du Québec."
"Citizens' confidence is a priority for my organization and myself," Pichet went on to say in the email.
He said that Lamothe was being relieved of his duties immediately and for an indefinite period, "until everything has come to light."
Pichet told CBC later on Friday that it was a difficult time at the SPVM.
"Since I've been here, I've made some structural changes. I'm working on the culture, but that takes time, it takes years," Pichet said.
"But at the same time, if people do something wrong, we will take action."
Administrative inquiry led by Michel Bouchard
The SPVM has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, amid allegations its internal affairs department fabricated evidence against whistleblowers.
Pichet asked the Sûreté du Quebec to investigate the allegations, a move supported by Quebec's Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux.
Since those initial allegations surfaced, several more worrying cases were brought to Coiteux's attention by the SQ, the public security minister said last week.
At that time, Coiteux announced his decision to call for a parallel "administrative investigation" of the Montreal police based on those new allegations.
Today, Coiteux named the man who will lead that investigation: former deputy minister of Justice, Michel Bouchard.
"Mr. Bouchard possesses vast experience and a flawless reputation, and I'm convinced that he would be able to take an impartial look at the situation and propose the best solutions possible," Coiteaux said in a news release Friday.
A former Crown prosecutor, Bouchard has also worked as associate deputy minister of Justice at the federal level. He also led the administrative inquiry into the helicopter prison breaks in Saint-Jérôme in 2013 and Orsainville in 2014, as well as the inquiry into the management of the Hells Angels mega-trial in 2015.
"He's qualified, credible and capable," Coiteux said.
Report due in September
Bouchard will examine how the SPVM's internal investigations work, including management, coaching and procedures.
He will then need to make recommendations to improve practices relative to internal investigations.
Coiteux said it's important public confidence be re-established quickly.
His report is to be handed over to Coiteux by Sept. 15 at the latest and is expected to be made public after that.