Pichet summons top brass, writes letter to citizens
Published Saturday, February 25, 2017 2:19PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 25, 2017 11:16PM EST
Summoned by police chief Philippe Pichet, over 100 senior officers arrived in plain clothes and unmarked vehicles at an east-end SPVM training facility to discuss allegations that has the Quebec government conducting an inquiry into the force.
In an interview with CTV Montreal, Pichet insisted he welcomes the inquiry, which was announced on Friday by Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. He said he had brought his highest-ranking officers together to hear their ideas and feelings on the situation.
“That’s why I brought my high ranking officers here, to have an honest exchange with them and just to make sure what the situation is and I also have an action plan to provide to Mr. Coiteux,” he said.
On Wednesday, two former SPVM officers told CTV Montreal they had been the subject of a smear campaign by the SPVM's internal affairs division after raising concerns over the legality of some investigations into organized crime.
The two said evidence was fabricated to discredit them, allegations that were corroborated by other officers.
On Friday, Coiteux said that initial plans for an inquiry called only for the Surete du Quebec to investigate but that after learning of more allegations, it would be expanded to include other police forces.
Citing a “systemic procedural problem with internal investigations,” Coiteux also said there would be a second inquiry into the administration of the SPVM to determine how those investigations are handled.
Roxane Pitre, president of the SPVM’s association for senior officers was at the meeting. Afterwards, she said that Pichet had the full support of everyone in attendance.
She added that all the officers who were present were deeply concerned about how the SPVM’s credibility would be affected by the allegations.
“We’re all very, very affected,” she said. “Worried? No, because we know the practices of the SPVM, we know we are professionals.”
Retire SQ officer François Doré said public confidence in the police force has been shaken by the accusations. While he stressed that most cops are good at their jobs, when even a few are involved in criminal activities "The perception is all the force is bad."
“It’s been going on for years," he said. "I hope it won’t take a year to find out exactly what’s going on and what are the solutions so the population can trust their police for once again.”
Pichet said the issue of credibility was an important one and that accusations of fabricating evidence must be taken seriously. He insisted that the inquiry does not undermine his authority as chief.
“I’m the chief. (Coiteux) has the chief to make an action plan, that’s what I’m going to do," he said. "At the same time, we’re going to be an open book. They’re going to come, we’ll show everything they want to see and we’ll make sure if we have something to announce, we’ll do it for sure.”
Doré said Pichet would be under intense scrutiny while the inquiry is ongoing but praised the team that will be investigating, singling out Madelein Giauque from the Bureau of Independent Investigators as someone the public can trust.
“It doesn’t sideline Mr. Pichet," he said. "Mr. Pichet is under a magnifier, some lights, he can’t take any decision without the minister knowing it. He’s under supervision.”
On Saturday evening Pichet wrote a letter to the citizens of Montreal on the SPVM Facebook page.
“The confidence of Montrealers is paramount for preserving the population’s sense of security and the legitimacy of police work, and I am confident that Minister Martin's announcement will help maintain that confidence,” Pichet wrote.