The Montreal police chief has asked the Sûreté du Québec to investigate allegations that some of his officers fabricated evidence to silence whistleblowers.
The SQ will review some of the investigations conducted by the SPVM's internal affairs department following a report on the program 'J.E.' which aired on TVA Tuesday night.
High-ranking former Montreal police officers Jimmy Cacchione, Roger Larriviere and Giovanni Di Feo told TVA that the Montreal police department had fabricated evidence to silence other officers about allegations of internal corruption.
Two police officers had threatened to go public with the information.
The former officers who came forward to TVA claim that as part of their work, they witnessed wrongdoings within the SPVM which included fabrication of evidence, allegations of illegal activities, and spying on journalists who spoke to some of these whistleblowers.
In one case, two officers who infiltrated the Mafia for decades claim they were fired when they raised questions about the integrity of their department, including the disappearance of money set aside to pay informants.
Jimmy Cacchione and Giovanni Di Feo said they were often at odds with colleagues because they spent so much time with members of organized crime.
"One of the accusations, disciplinary accusations we have is talking to shady people. That's been our job all our life. And it served their purposes," said Di Feo.
Internal affairs attempted to build a case against them, but the two were eventually cleared of all wrongdoing – however, their careers were destroyed.
"We know for a fact that some files were created only to ruin or prevent people from telling the truth," said Cacchione
Police chief Philippe Pichet said that after viewing the TVA report, he immediately asked the SQ to review these SPVM investigations.
“I’m very concerned about what I saw and heard and I don’t know about all those facts, so that’s why I asked Martin Prud’homme of the Sûreté du Québec to review all the investigations related to these three people and verify these know facts,” he told CTV. “It’s very important to shed light on all these facts.”
"Now we’re bringing up some old investigations. The people brought forth some new information, so we’re going to concentrate our effort to make the situation very clear," said Pichet, adding the force plans to collaborate with the SQ.
“It's very important for me to eliminate any grey zone, that's why I asked the Sûreté du Québec to do the investigation to review all the investigation because an investigation took place before and there was a conclusion with no criminal accusations. Now, we'll take it from the beginning to make sure there's no doubt in our head.”
On Wednesday evening, Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux said the "facts raised are serious and deserve concrete action," adding that he was "reassured" by the fact that the SQ would be conducting an investigation.
“There was an immediate response,” Coiteux added in the National Assembly Wednesday.
Pichet underlined that the report focuses specifically on the internal affairs division, not the entire force.
“We have to make it very clear. We’re talking about the internal affairs division, which is not the majority of our officers. We have 4,600 officers. They’re all doing great work. They’re very professional," he said.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre added that he was troubled by the report and is reassured that Pichet acted immediately by asking the SQ to investigate.
“Mr. Pichet has all my support,” Coderre said, adding that “the vast majority of people at the SPVM do their work professionally.”
“We’ll leave the Surete du Quebec to do their work,” he added.
Calls for external investigation
A petition is now circulating within the Montreal police force asking for an external investigation into how the internal affairs division is investigating officers.
The police brotherhood union goes further and directly names the former head of internal affairs as the person responsible, and is asking Coiteux to get involved.
So far Pichet, Coiteux and Coderre have not shown any interest in having the case investigated by the Independent Bureau of Investigators, established to investigate incidents involving police officers.
The Parti Quebecois and the CAQ argue, however, that the Bureau of Independent Investigations, which was mandated to independently investigate cases when police are involved, should handle the case.
“We should move away from police investigating police and that’s what the bureau is there for. It seems the Liberals don’t want to use it. And yesterday to have the chief of police in Montreal simple call and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you come,’ (isn’t right),” said PQ leader Jean-François Lisée
The CAQ is also asking for Pichet to step down.
“You cannot tolerate in your police services to have fake evidence created by the police service. I think there’s a lack of leadership and so Pichet should step down,” said CAQ Justice Critic Simon Jolin-Barette
Pichet said the force will agree to cooperate with the BEI if they are called upon to investigate.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Montreal’s Stephane Giroux and Maya Johnson