Allegations of corruption, brutality, threats: Key findings from the report into Montreal police
Bouchard report paints 'worrisome portrait' of internal affairs, says Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux
The report into the Montreal police service paints a troubling portrait of inner turmoil and calls for an end to the "climate of tension and suspicion that has developed" within the force.
Former deputy justice minister Michel Bouchard describes how several internal investigations into the conduct of police officers — including allegations of corruption, brutality and threats — were "botched."
The uncovering of what Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux calls a "systemic and very serious problem" at the heart of the force ultimately led to the suspension of police Chief Philippe Pichet on Wednesday.
Bouchard's findings are based on the study of 1,005 internal cases from 2010 to 2017. Pichet was made chief in 2015.
Here are some of the key findings of the 98-page report.
Long delays in investigating allegations of threats
When it comes to internal investigations, the report found that several cases were subjected to lengthy delays — often without any explanation.
In 2013, a civilian filed a complaint with the Sureté du Québec, alleging that they received death threats from four Montreal police officers.
While the SQ informed the SPVM's internal affairs division and provided the contact information for the complainant, the file was only given to an investigator 16 months later in October 2014.
The file was deemed "inactive" a year later because the complainant was unreachable.
"The inexplicable delay to start the investigation clearly produced this result," concludes the report.
The report also cites another example from 2013, in which a complaint was filed against a police officer who allegedly threatened a civilian with charges for offences they never committed.
The complainant was contacted nine months later by internal affairs and they refused to pursue the complaint, saying they had moved on to other things.
"Once again, the long delay to open this investigation is not explained and led to abandonment by the complainant," the report reads.
Promoted without being sanctioned
Bouchard also found that when a higher up within the Montreal police was being looked into for possible links to organized crime in 2013, the investigation was "treated lightly."
The report found that the investigation was handled "in an exceptional fashion" because a senior director was assigned to oversee the file, instead of an investigator.
The director who looked into the allegations repeatedly referred to the police officer by their first name only, which Bouchard suggests means there was a "friendly or familiar link" with the reader of the report.
The investigation wasn't nearly as fleshed out or documented compared to a similar case, according to Bouchard.
In spite of the allegations, the police officer in question was promoted repeatedly afterward.
The public probe found that a file concerning a "serious allegation of corruption" against a police officer was "only a single page" in 2015.
There is little information provided, according to the report, and the file doesn't indicate who opened the case.
Bouchard reported the police officer at the centre of the allegation was under the supervision of a superior who had managed the internal affairs division for years.
The report suggests that "without any other explanation," the file was not followed up because of the relationship between the officer and his new superior, who recently moved from internal affairs.
Witnesses, complainants disregarded
The report found that in 2011, a case involving a 14-year-old girl led to a "botched investigation without making real efforts to complete the case."
The girl claimed that a Montreal police officer hit her at the exit of a Metro station, but not a single witness on the scene was questioned about what happened.
While the complainant was deemed "credible," the case was closed after three months because video surveillance footage of the incident was "impossible to retrace," said Bouchard.
"Since the complainant was quoted as saying that she simply wanted a note flagging the assault committed against her be added to the police officer's file, the case was closed without pursuing an investigation," said the report.
In 2014, a complainant approached internal affairs and told the department she witnessed brutality at the hands of two officers. As a "credible" witness, the report said she also clearly identified the police officers.
However, the file shows that the alleged victim was never approached by internal affairs and the way the case was handled was to "convince the complainant that the work of police officers is difficult," said Bouchard.
As a result, the file was closed by internal affairs after asking the commander of that station to talk to the two police officers.
"No real investigation was initiated even when the main witness is credible and disturbed by the brutal actions of the officers," said Bouchard.
In another case, a police officer was accused of harassment by their wife in 2011.
While the file mentions the case was transferred to Quebec's Director of Penal and Criminal Prosecutions, Bouchard found that "nothing in the report" confirms that is the case and that no allegation was brought forth to the province's Public Security Ministry.
"It allows us to believe that this complaint was not the subject of a true investigation on behalf of the internal affairs division," reads the report.
With files from Benjamin Shingler and Radio-Canada's Jérôme Labbé