Montreal police deputy director suspended
Published Friday, March 3, 2017 10:34AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, June 7, 2017 10:47AM EDT
The deputy director of the Montreal police department's strategic division has been suspended.
Police chief Philippe Pichet announced the immediate suspension of Bernard Lamothe on Friday afternoon, saying it came in the wake of new information obtained by the Sûreté du Québec.
“I received a call from Sûreté du Québec this morning regarding files that were open linked to Mr. Lamothe and I made the decision to remove him from his function when I got the information,” said Pichet.
Meanwhile Quebec's Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux announced lawyer Michel Bouchard would lead the administrative investigation into the Montreal police force's internal affairs department.
"We need to make tough decisions and be confident. We are going to get to the bottom of this," said Coiteux.
The announcements came soon after Coiteux was questioned about reports of Mafia-linked lawyer Loris Cavaliere discussing police officers being bribed.
In police recordings made on Feb. 17, 2015 and released this week by a Superior Court judge to the The Gazette, Journal de Montreal and La Presse, Cavaliere is heard discussing police investigations with two clients.
Cavaliere asks a client (who cannot be named due to publication ban) if he is worried and he said he is not: "Police officers are worried about leaks in this matter. That's why Internal Affairs is involved. That doesn't worry me; that's why we pay them."
Those remarks were apparently made in connection with Andre Thibodeau, a Montreal police sergeant arrested in January 2015 as part of an investigation into a Mafia-led gambling ring.
Cavaliere pleaded guilty recently to charges of gangsterism and weapons charges, and was sentenced to 34 months in prison.
He spent decades acting as a lawyer for organized crime figures including Vite Rizzuto, and the Crown said he frequently passed messages between those in and out of jail.
Part of the case against Cavaliere involved wiretaps and court-authorized recordings made in his office.
Pichet responded to the recordings Friday afternoon, saying they don’t necessarily prove anything.
“We have to be very careful about what we hear on different media. Of course I heard that, but that doesn’t prove that police officers are paid to do something with criminal people, so if we have to investigate that, Sûreté du Québec will do it,” said Pichet.
Last week Coiteux announced two investigations into allegations of corruption within the Montreal police department.
On Friday he said those investigations will continue, but they will take time.
"All information related to allegations is being brought to the inquiry that I announced last week," Coiteux said several times.
"We are not going to rush into a decision based on an article in today's newspaper."
Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet asked the Sureté du Quebec to investigate his force after several officers came forward to say the Internal Affairs division had fabricated evidence in order to silence whistleblowers.
Coiteux has launched one investigation into these allegations of wrongdoing, and a second, administrative inquiry, into the SPVM.
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the opposition in Quebec City is calling on the Montreal police force to be placed under trusteeship.
For the time being, Coiteux said heis putting in place measures that will fix this.
“We take this very seriously. We are going to take all the required steps to make sure that the confidence and the trust between the public and the SPVM will be quickly repaired now and for the future,” he said.
Pichet, meantime, is trying to reassure the public that the force is not in crisis.
He said they are still providing excellent service, but added that he is looking forward to seeing what changes Bouchard will recommend for the force.
With additional reporting by CTV's Rob Lurie and Amy Luft