Montrealers will have their say before city hires next police chief

·3 min read
The city of Montreal is in the process of selecting a new, permanent police chief.  (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The city of Montreal is in the process of selecting a new, permanent police chief. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Montrealers will get a chance to weigh in and have their say before the city hires its next police chief.

On Tuesday, Mayor Valérie Plante's administration said it would hold a public consultation before deciding who gets the top job in the city's police force.

The move came from community groups who took part in a recent forum on combating violence led by the city and the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

According to the city, groups clamoured for a bigger role in selecting the next chief.

"Public security is everyone's business," Plante said in a statement.

"The consultation process will make it possible to reflect the aspirations of the population, community groups, members of the SPVM, and youth through the selection process."

On Friday, Sylvain Caron will step down as police chief and retire, a decision he announced last month.

Sophie Roy is expected to take over the job in the interim, after the SPVM submitted her candidacy to the city's public security committee. The city has since recommended her to Quebec's public security minister, making her nomination all but guaranteed.

Roy would become the first woman to lead the city's police force.

Simon Nakonechny/CBC
Simon Nakonechny/CBC

During a news conference on Thursday, Dominique Ollivier, president of the city's executive committee, said details regarding the public consultation would be released in the coming weeks.

"We don't have the full details right now but for sure it's going to be a mix of different ways of reaching people," Ollivier said, citing online surveys and in-person discussions with stakeholders and community groups as examples.

"We want the head of our police service to be in tune with the Montreal population."

In 2020, the city's public consultation office (OCPM) issued 38 recommendations to help the city address systemic racism and discrimination.

In its report, the OCPM urged the city to have candidates for the role of police chief make a presentation before the public security commission and field questions from residents.

Ollivier — who was the president of the OCPM when the report was tabled — said that recommendation is another reason the city decided to ask Montrealers for their input, though she acknowledged that it would not be possible to have candidates meet the public due to need to make the hiring process confidential.

Fo Niemi, the executive director for the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), applauded the city's move.

He said community groups have been asking the city for a bigger role in selecting the police chief for years.

"It's important to hear what people have to say, listen to people in terms of their expectations," Niemi said.

"Public participation is a democratic exercise that is valuable and that will certainly bring the people closer to the police department because if these expectations and these wishes are heard during the appointment process, then people can have a greater sense of ownership."

Abdelhaq Sari, the public security critic for Ensemble Montréal, the official Opposition at city hall, criticized the Plante administration for the timing of its announcement. He pointed out that the current chief had made up his mind about retiring last December, even if his decision was only made public several months later.


"There's a certain latency with this administration," Sari said.

He also questioned the value of having Montrealers weigh in during the selection process when they ultimately can't control who is nominated.

"It's an administration that functions mainly through public relations, that functions mainly with words."

The city was already three weeks into the process of selecting a permanent police chief. The decision to hold a public consultation essentially puts that on hold.

As a result of the public consultation, Roy's interim status would be guaranteed until September, the city said in a statement.

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