Montreal officer charged with sexual assault after investigation by Quebec's police watchdog
Roger Frechette, 55, is first Montreal police officer to be charged following BEI investigation
An Ontario woman says while visiting Montreal last year, she was arrested, injured by police and then, hours later, sexually assaulted by an off-duty officer in her hotel room.
The woman, whose identity is protected by the courts, said the officer, Roger Frechette, drove her to her hotel from a downtown police station after his shift ended early on the morning of Feb.19, 2019 and followed her inside.
"He was touching my private parts," the 41-year-old woman told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. "He made me put my hand on his private parts. He kept telling me over and over again to take a shower."
Frechette, 55, has been charged with one count of sexual assault following an investigation by Quebec's police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI). A summons was issued for his arrest on Feb. 18, 2020, signed by presiding justice of the peace, Luis-Marian Lipoveanu. Records show Frechette appeared in court through a lawyer on April 1.
Esther Tremblay, spokesperson for the BEI, confirmed in an email that the agency's investigation into Frechette had been completed, and he has been charged.
"This is the first Montreal police officer who has been charged following a BEI investigation," she said. (As CBC reported in August 2019, at least two other police officers elsewhere in Quebec have been charged following BEI investigations, in both cases on counts of sexual assault.)
The Montreal police would not comment on Frechette's case. In an unsigned email response, the media relations department said the police force "cannot comment on specific cases, nor confirm or deny that an investigation is underway concerning an individual."
When asked if the public had the right to know if an officer charged with sexual assault was still on duty, the media relations team did not respond.
The Canadian Press viewed an email exchange, however, between an investigator with the BEI and the alleged victim, in which the agency says Frechette "has been suspended from duty and has no access to weapons."
The allegations against Frechette have not been proven, and messages from The Canadian Press to his lawyer were not immediately returned. Court documents state Frechette is due in court July 6.
The woman was visiting Montreal in February 2019 with her then-boyfriend to celebrate Valentine's Day.
On the night of Feb. 18, the couple got into a heated argument downtown, and four Montreal police officers showed up in two vehicles. She admits to being belligerent and resisting the police. She said the officers became aggressive with her, tackling her to the ground, injuring her face, head and shoulder.
She said she has post-traumatic stress disorder from previous abuse.
"I have PTSD, and I went into fight or flight," she said. "I guess basically, I was resisting arrest — but I was scared."
The woman said her ex-boyfriend had prior convictions and wasn't supposed to be drinking, and police arrested him.
She was brought to a downtown police station strapped to a wheelchair, she said, and placed alone in a detention cell.
She said she had urinated herself and was bruised from the altercation with the arresting officers.
Frechette, she said, was not an arresting officer but was at the police station when she arrived. She alleges he walked over to her cell repeatedly and complimented her on her appearance.
"I said to him at one point: 'What about me is attractive right now?' My clothes are ripped. My hair has been ripped out. My makeup is everywhere because I have been crying.… I'm like a caged animal."
She said he allegedly responded: "That's what I like. That's what I find attractive."
She said she couldn't believe what was happening. "You're supposed to protect me," she said of the police. "You're not
supposed to be like this."
Frechette brought her a pair of jeans and pink boxer shorts. She said he watched her change clothes in her cell. She then realized she didn't know whose clothes they were and took them off, also under the gaze of the officer, she said.
She alleges he commented on her genitals and expressed his desire to have sex.
Around 5 a.m., after several hours in detention, the woman said Frechette let her out of her cell and left the station. She said she found herself outside, not dressed for the February cold and without any money.
Across the street, she said, a small car was flashing its headlights. She walked up to the vehicle and saw Frechette alone at the wheel. It was his personal vehicle, she said.
"He said, 'I will drive you back to your hotel.' I said, 'OK.' I was desperate."
She said he drove her to her hotel and followed her into her room. "He tried to get me to take a shower," she said. "He was licking me. He tried to get me to sleep with him."
She said she remembers that he forced her hand on his crotch, on top of his pants. He touched her body repeatedly, she said.
"He kept saying, over and over again: 'I have a family. I could get fired. I could get fired.' So I said: 'Why are you here?'"
At no point during the night were any of his advances welcome, she said, adding that she felt trapped and didn't want to upset him.
"My brain just blocked out whatever happened. I know he did stuff to me. He was licking my neck and smelling me. It was disgusting." She does not, however, remember having sex with Frechette.
She said after a certain time — she does not know how long — she began to slam her fists into her thighs and yelled. Not long after, she said, he left.
Since the incident, the single mother says she is afraid to leave her home. "It blew my whole life up," she said. She said she wanted to come forward to help other women who have had similar experiences.
"It was not easy to do," she said, about telling her story. "But I had to take my power back."
With files from CBC News