High-ranking officer suspended as SQ raids Montreal police headquarters
Published Thursday, October 26, 2017 10:32PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 27, 2017 1:54PM EDT
A high-ranking Montreal police officer has been suspended with pay after the Sureté du Quebec conducted a raid on the Montreal police department headquarters.
The raid took place Thursday evening as part of a fraud and breach of trust investigation.
The mixed squad, which specializes in internal affairs, was looking into allegations against Imad Sawaya, police Chief Philippe Pichet's right-hand man.
Montreal police tweeted Friday morning that an officer had been suspended for an undetermined period of time, though they did not name Sawaya. Pichet later confirmed to CTV it was indeed him.
Pichet spoke to the media about the search early Friday morning, saying that an investigation was launched in 2015 and that it concerned a history of overtime and other bonuses. Pichet said he believed the file had been checked and cleared and there was no anomaly.
“From what I know about that file, everything was checked at that time… and everything was fine. If they have some more information, I don’t know,” he said, adding that the police force was cooperating fully with the investigation.
“I was informed yesterday night by the deputy chief of the Surete du Quebec that there was an allegation on one of my high-ranked officers and they were about to do some searches in different places through the city of Montreal, including the headquarters," he said.
“I can tell you they searched in the third floor, which is human relations, and the seventh floor which is the operational planning division,” he added. Sawaya worked in the operational planning offices, said Pichet.
The SQ also searched Plateau Mont-Royal Station 38 on Rachel St. E. Police archives and payroll offices were also examined.
It’s the first time in its history the headquarters of the Montreal police department has been raided.
“At this time, it just means there’s an investigation going on right now,” said Pichet, adding “I suspended five or six officers and two came back without any accusations. What is important to me right now is we don’t judge any people. There is an investigation. We’ll collaborate with the mixed squad and the Surete du Quebec and they will get all the information. And then we’ll see after what will happen.”
Pichet said he had been meeting with other high-ranking officers overnight and that he had full confidence in Sawaya.
“We’ll have to take the next step and of course advise my concerned officers about what will happen next,” he said.
Pichet also wanted to reassure citizens, acknowledging how the optics of the raids may appear.
“I know for citizens, seeing that our headquarters are being searched, that brings up a lot of questions. I just want to reassure them we are still providing all the good services they need. It’s just concerning one file that the Surete du Quebec has and we’ll collaborate with them to make sure they get the truth about that file,” he said.
“I’m very aware of the perception that can come out, that’s why I’m here to answer questions,” he said.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre comment on the suspension while he was out campaigning Friday.
Coderre said the situation is serious, but that he is going to let the justice system take its course, adding that Pichet has his full confidence.
With files from The Canadian Press and CJAD