Changing police culture will take a decade: Chief Pichet
Published Friday, March 31, 2017 10:32AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 31, 2017 6:54PM EDT
Montreal's police chief expects it will take a decade to fully change the culture of the force.
Police chief Philippe Pichet delivered a plan to Montreal city hall on Friday morning to do just that in hopes of restoring public confidence in police.
"We know where we have to go and we are taking responsibility for our actions. We won't fail," said Pichet.
His 38-point plan includes steps he has already taken, including undoing some of the decentralization of power that had been taken by previous administrations.
"One thing I have done is return all assistant directors to central headquarters, so that everything can happen under one roof," Pichet told city officials.
He said the previous plan had created "unhealthy competition between divisions, each with their own kings and kingdoms."
Pichet said a wholesale revision of internal affairs was underway, including limiting the amount of time any one investigator could work in internal affairs.
That is, in part, a reaction to the accusations of wrongdoing throughout the force, including accusations that officers in internal affairs were fabricating evidence against fellow police officers.
A number of Montreal police officers, including senior officials, have been suspended while they are being investigated by the Sureté du Quebec.
"We can't foster a culture of keeping secrets," said Pichet.
Pichet is also calling for a revision of the police department's code of ethics and a new communications plan, but he anticipated it would take more than a year for those measures to be completed.
He is also looking to increase supervision on investigators, but said getting rid of rival factions will be his priority.
“What I wish for the SPVM is to work together as one team. No ome, no different teams. Let's work together,” he said.
Pichet said new hires at the SPVM in management and on patrol will lead to internal changes, but it won't happen overnight.
“It actually takes between five and ten years to change a culture. That doesn't mean there's no progress until then,” he said.
Mayor Denis Coderre has already seen the plan in full and endorses it.
Pichet said he had also discussed the plan with the Police Brotherhood "because it's important that we're not at war with the union."
A ten-year deadline, however, is far too long for some city councillors in Montreal, who said they wish Pichet could act much faster than that.
“For us it's a long time. In politics, ten years it's long so we want to make sure we can do it before that,” said Anie Samson, Montreal’s public security commissioner president.
“As long at the governance of the SPVM isn't made more transparent then we'll continue to have serious problems and the crisis of confidence by the public will not dissipate,” added Projet Montreal councillor Alex Norris.
The opposition in the National Assembly still questions Pichet’s leadership.
“We require an independent inquiry, and that demand is remains that we need that independent inquiry,” said Eric Caire of the CAQ.
Former SQ lieutenant Francois Dore, who is now a police analyst, said he thinks Pichet no longer has the credibility needed to oversee the changes.
“Maybe what is needed in Montreal is a new chief of police for now,” he said.
The chief has no plans to step down and said he believes he has one thing going for him: an influx of new recruits.
With a large number of police officers having retired in recent years, and more about to retire, Pichet believes he has a good opportunity to train new managers into being more responsible.
Fifty out of 130 managers are expected to retire by 2020.