Montreal police chief submits plan for overhaul following scandals

1 / 2
Montreal police chief submits plan for overhaul following scandals

Montreal's police chief has drawn up a plan to overhaul the "culture" of his scandal-plagued force, and it has the backing of officials in both Quebec City and City Hall.

Details of the plan won't be made public until March 31, Mayor Denis Coderre said Sunday. But the mayor did reveal it contains proposals to address infighting within the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

"There are elements within it that will change the culture (of the SPVM)," Coderre said. He added the plan also addresses the management structure of the force. 

"More and more we were seeing that there were clans from the past. We had to shine light on that," Coderre said. 

Coiteux asked for change

Last month, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux asked Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet to draw up a plan for restoring confidence in the force following a series of scandals involving its internal affairs division.

Former officers came forward with allegations that the division fabricated evidence in an effort to silence whistleblowers who tried to expose corruption in the police. That prompted the Sûreté du Québec to launch a criminal investigation.

The deputy director of the force was relieved of his duties earlier this month pending the results of the SQ probe. 

Pichet submitted his proposed changes to the minister on Friday. The two met the next day, and on Sunday, Coiteux expressed his support for Pichet's plan.

"For me it's a convincing plan," Coiteux told CBC News. "It is a part of the whole process that we have started to restore, to re-establish public confidence in the SPVM."

Support for Montreal chief

It was an important vote of confidence for Pichet, who declined to comment on Sunday. Opposition politicians at both the municipal and provincial levels have questioned his leadership since he was appointed in 2015.

The allegations of fabrication of evidence against whistleblowers is the second major controversy to have hit the force in recent months. In the fall, it was revealed Montreal police sought to monitor conversations of certain journalists.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Coderre highlighted Quebec City's support for Pichet's plan.

"Unlike the opposition, who wanted to get rid of Mr. Pichet ... I think stability is important," Coderre said. "Mr. Pichet is the man for the situation."

The mayor also stressed that the alleged incidents of evidence fabrication pre-date Pichet's appointment as chief.

Montreal's public safety commission will discuss the plan at an in-camera meeting on Wednesday.

The commission will hold a rare public session on Friday, when details of the four-page plan will be revealed. The commission will have the responsibility of ensuring the reform plan is carried out.

Whether the plan is successful at restoring public trust in the SPVM will depend on if it receives the support of rank-and-file officers, Coiteux said.

"Now everybody has to collaborate on this ... that includes the police brotherhood," Coiteux added, referring to the police officer's union.

The union declined to comment on Sunday, saying it had not yet seen the reform proposals.

Along with the SQ investigation, Coiteux also ordered an administrative inquiry into the SPVM. The results of that inquiry are not expected for several months.