Interim Montreal police chief presents plans to overhaul troubled police service

At the first meeting of the City of Montreal public security committee open to the public, the new interim chief of police, Martin Prud'homme, said the culture of the SPVM needs to change.

Martin Prud'homme lets go of half the SPVM's assistant directors, aims to improve transparency

Martin Prud'homme told the City of Montreal's public security committee he is working to change the culture at the SPVM. That monthly committee meeting was livestreamed for the first time Tuesday. (Livestream/ville.montreal.qc.ca)

The interim chief of Montreal's police force, Martin Prud'homme, has cut by half the number of assistant directors on the SPVM — a measure he says will help make the police service more transparent and change its closed culture.

At the first public meeting of the City of Montreal's public security committee, Prud'homme said he could now confirm the troubling findings about the SPVM contained in the Bouchard report, released in December — specifically, the lack of transparency and poor organization in the internal affairs department, and the resulting lack of trust within the police service.

"We will be accountable to the public. We will answer questions. We will have numbers," Prud'homme said. 

"We'll be able to tell you what happened with each investigation. You'll have way more answers than you're accustomed to having."

Prud'homme took over the top job at the SPVM after former chief Philippe Pichet was suspended in December. 

He promised new measures will be put in place in the next few weeks. 

He presented a plan Tuesday, which includes:

  • Simplifying the SPVM structure to facilitate communication.
  • Issuing a complete review of the internal affairs department.
  • Making the candidate selection process more transparent.
  • Reviewing the workplace climate.
  • Establishing the ideal profile for the next chief of police. 

Prud'homme, on a one-year leave from his post as the head of the Sûreté du Québec, said he's already started working toward these goals by reducing the number of upper management positions: eight assistant director positions have been reduced to four.

An internal messaging system has also been set up, and Prud'homme said he's received 165 messages so far.

Monthly meetings now open to public

Alex Norris, chair of the City of Montreal's public security committee and city councillor for Projet Montréal, said the new administration wants to fulfil its campaign promise of introducing a new era of transparency when it comes to overseeing its police and fire departments. 

He's confident Prud'homme will succeed with this overhaul.

"I'm convinced that he's taking the situation really seriously in an incredible, rigorous way," Norris said Tuesday.

He believes a culture of secrecy is at the root of the force's problems.

Alex Norris, chair of the City of Montreal's public security committee, said he believes Prud'homme will be able to reinstill public confidence in the police force. (CBC)

"In general, the public security commission has held its meetings behind closed doors," Norris told CBC Daybreak earlier in the day. "We're changing that."

Beginning Tuesday, anyone from the public can question police and fire department officials during the monthly meetings.

The committee is developing its calendar and topics of discussion, which will include how police handle demonstrations and the use of intermediate weapons such as rubber bullets and stun grenades.

With files from Antoni Nerestant and CBC Montreal's Daybreak