Transparency needed to fix Montreal's scandal-ridden police force, opposition says

A new plan aimed at changing the culture at the Montreal police force needs to include a long-term commitment to openness and transparency, says the opposition at Montreal City Hall.

Projet Montréal councillor encouraged by plan laid out by police Chief Philippe Pichet

Mayor Denis Coderre says he's committed to changing the culture of the Montreal police force under Chief Philippe Pichet, who took over in 2015. (Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press)

A new plan aimed at changing the culture at the Montreal police force needs to include a long-term commitment to openness and transparency, says the opposition at Montreal City Hall.

"We have one of the most opaque systems of accountability of any police force of any major city in Canada," Alex Norris, a councillor for Projet Montréal, told Daybreak on Monday.

Norris made the remarks following a commitment Sunday from Mayor Denis Coderre to overhaul the "culture" at the scandal-plagued police force, with a new plan put forward by police Chief Philippe Pichet.

The plan is to be discussed behind closed doors on Wednesday and made public on Friday.

The comments also come amid fresh revelations that suggest ongoing turmoil within the ranks of the police service.

Radio-Canada reported that Chief-Insp. Costa Labos, former head of the department's internal affairs section, and Sgt.-Det. Normand Borduas are under investigation by the Quebec provincial police force for fabricating evidence.

Labos had been the target of another investigation last fall. He was accused of lying to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant. No charges were laid.

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux asked Chief Philippe Pichet to come up with a plan to restore confidence in the police force. (CBC)
Last month, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux asked Pichet to draw up a plan for restoring confidence in the force following a series of scandals involving its internal affairs division.

Former officers came forward with allegations that the division fabricated evidence in an effort to silence whistleblowers who tried to expose corruption in the police service.

That prompted the Sûreté du Québec to launch a criminal investigation. The deputy director of the force was relieved of his duties earlier this month pending the results of the SQ probe.

Opening the doors, shining a light

Norris sits on the city's Public Safety Commission, which oversees the police force but nearly always meets behind closed doors.

Projet Montréal wants greater transparency within the Montreal police force. (Radio-Canada)
Last November, for instance, the commission met in private with Pichet to discuss revelations that police had been spying on journalists.

Norris wants public meetings held once at least once a month, as is the case in Toronto and Vancouver.

While details of the changes coming to police will be released Friday, it's already clear they include a commitment to some public meetings, Norris said.

"This seems to be a tentative step toward opening things up," he said.