Montreal

Philippe Pichet: 5 things to know about Montreal's new police chief

Philippe Pichet is set to be sworn in today as Montreal's new top cop. Here are five things to know about Pichet and the challenges he's expected to face in the post.

Longtime member of force to be sworn as top cop today at city hall

Denis Coderre recommended Philippe Pichet to take over as police chief in September. (CBC)

Montreal will have a new police chief today. Philippe Pichet is set to be sworn in at city hall at 2:30 p.m., taking over from outgoing top cop Marc Parent.

Here are five things to know about the new chief and the challenges he's expected to face in the post.

1. Key figure during the student protests

Students clashed with police during the protest in downtown Montreal Wednesday. (Marie-Esperance Cerda/Canadian Press)
Philippe Pichet has been with Montreal police since the early 90s.

In 2005, he joined the force's administration. Since then, he has held positions in operation planning and worked with the counter-terrorism unit. 

Pichet was in charge of coordinating the police response to the months of tumultuous student protests in 2012.

2. Chosen by Mayor Denis Coderre

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced his choice in July. (CBC)
After announcing his choice in July, Coderre said Pichet was "someone who is very professional." 

Coderre said a total of six people came forward for the job but he felt Pichet was the right choice.

"He's shown me he's ready for another challenge," Coderre said. 

Public Security Minister Lise Thériault later approved the decision.

3. Replacing Marc Parent

Montreal police chief Marc Parent announced on May 7 that he would not seek another mandate when his contract expires in September. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
Pichet replaces Marc Parent, decided to step down at the end of his five-year term for personal reasons. After 31 years as a police officer and five years as head of the department, Parent said the time had come to move on.

"It's a personal decision," he told CBC earlier this year. 

"I'm convinced that inside the organization we have the people to take charge, so it's a good time for me to do that."

4. Long list of challenges

Montreal Police officers have been wearing camo pants to protest municipal pension reforms. (Graham Hughes/CP)
The new police chief has a lot of challenges on his plate, including strained community relations, shrinking budgets and poor labour relations.

Officers have been wearing camouflage pants and red baseball caps instead of their formal uniform since 2014 as a way to protest against the province's pension reform bill.

Former provincial police officer Paul Laurier, who worked with Pichet during the student protests, said the "main challenge is the budget and retain the people because of the pension plan laws."

The city's stated fight against radicalisation and cybercrime will likely also be two other major priorities for Pichet.

​5. Calls for improved transparency and outreach

Freddie James says he was followed and then pulled over by a Montreal police officer for no reason. He's since made a racial profiling complaint against the police. (CBC)
Will Prosper, a community activist in Montreal North, is among those who would like to see greater transparency and improved community outreach on the force.

"I think it has to show not only through his members but through the community and population that he serves and that's not what we've seen in the past," Prosper said. 

"And he has to be someone who is able to bring people together from all different sorts of life whether it's politics, police, or citizens. So that's something we have not seen in the past."

Others say racial profiling continues to be a major problem in Montreal. 

Parent was the service's first chief to admit there was a racial profiling problem among its ranks, and promised to start to address the issue through better training.​

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