Montreal police chief says media leaks won't be tolerated

On Daybreak, Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet tiptoed around questions about leaks to the media, details of an internal ethics investigation and reports of strife within the ranks.

Officers who breach oath of allegiance will be investigated, Philippe Pichet says

Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet was on CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Thursday. (Peter McCabe/Canadian Press)

Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet is still being vague about an internal investigation into possible leaks to the media from officers on the force.

In an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Pichet tiptoed around questions about officers leaking information to the media, details of the internal ethics investigation and reports of strife within the ranks following a protest in Montreal North that saw a police station vandalized.

"There's a lot of things going on right now, but we have to remember we have a mission to ensure the safety of Montrealers," he told host Mike Finnerty on Thursday.

The comments come a day after the Montreal Police Brotherhood emailed its members advising them to not take part in an investigation into ethical breaches and warning officers not to submit to lie-detector tests. 

Radio-Canada obtained a note sent to members of the police brotherhood that says the union is "taking note" of Mayor Denis Coderre's increased interference in police business. (Pascal Robidas/Radio-Canada)

The email also accused Mayor Denis Coderre of interfering in police affairs.

"We do have some reason to investigate but like we did in the past, I won't comment on the investigation that we are doing now," he said.

On Tuesday, Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière, the force's longtime head of media relations, was suddenly shuffled to another department.

Pichet told Daybreak that police officers have to abide by three different codes — disciplinary, ethical and basic conduct.

When they are sworn in, they also pledge allegiance and make a vow to be discreet about internal police matters, he said. 

Officers who breach that oath will be investigated, Pichet said. 

Mayor isn't interfering, chief says

Pichet also denied the union's allegation that Coderre is meddling in police business.

"Mayor Coderre is not interfering in the operation in the Montreal police department," he said.

"You have to know that referring to the police act, the police law, I do have independence regarding all operations in the police department."

Projet Montréal Leader Luc Ferrandez has called for an independent investigation into the union's allegations.

Ferrandez said he is worried there's no separation of powers between city hall and the police force, and says his demand is tied to several issues, including a lack of arrests following a protest that led to vandalism at a police station in Montreal North.

When asked about the Montreal North protest, Pichet said the force has looked into the matter and "it won't happen again."

Conflict with union

Doug Hurley, a retired police officer and former commander with Montreal police, said the handling of the Montreal North situation caused a lot of frustration among union members.

"I don't want to talk about rumours, but I do know there was a lot of dissatisfaction not being able to intervene as we normally do," said Hurley, now a teacher in John Abbott's police technology program.

He also suggested that the ongoing labour dispute between Montreal police and the city has led to tension in the force.

"The problems they are having with the contract and the pension fund, there's lots of room for conflict," he said.

"There's definitely union issues."

Part of the problem, he said, is there aren't many ways for police to express their dissatisfaction. Unlike other unions, they can't go on strike. 

"Right now they are left hanging. They can't do anything. They decided to change clothing and put on hats," he said.