The Quebec government is replacing the head of the provincial police because it says it wants someone more hands-on to run the force. 

Public Security Minister Stéphane Bergeron said Thursday the newly appointed director of the Sûreté du Québec, Mario Laprise, has more experience in investigations, which will help achieve the government's aims of fighting organized crime.

"We're in a tumultuous period. Steps have to be taken to send clear signals, particularly to organized crime, that this government is determined to do whatever’s needed to eradicate organized crime," Bergeron said.

"And the first step, or one of the first steps, that we're taking is bringing in Mr. Laprise."

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Public Security Minister Stéphane Bergeron says it's the government's prerogative to appoint a new SQ chief — in this case, to send 'clear signals, particularly to organized crime.' (Radio-Canada)

Laprise worked for the SQ for 26 years before leaving the force to head up Hydro-Québec's industrial security team in 2005. He headed Operation Carcajou, a joint squad of SQ, RCMP and Montreal police officers created in 1995 and tasked with cracking down on biker gangs.

Outgoing SQ chief Richard Deschênes was appointed by the former Liberal government in 2008 and would have completed his five-year term next July.

Minister Bergeron insisted Deschênes's departure shouldn't be seen as a dismissal.  

"Mr. Deschênes didn't perform his job in an unsatisfactory way. Quite the contrary: He was named to the position because of certain skills and experience he has that were quite useful for the Sûreté du Québec," he said.

"We wanted someone more hands-on at the head of the Sûreté du Quebec, someone with concrete experience on the ground in fighting organized crime."

The SQ officers' union said it was surprised by the government's decision and had always been happy with Deschênes's leadership.