Montreal

Quebec Public Security Ministry begins process to remove Pichet as SPVM chief for good

Quebec's Ministry of Public Security has made an official request to the City of Montreal, asking for the go-ahead to definitively relieve Philippe Pichet of his duties as Montreal police chief.

Quebec made request to relieve Philippe Pichet of chief duties after report into police 'crisis of confidence'

Pichet Pichet was suspended as Montreal police chief last year after a report into problems inside the SPVM found that he had failed to show leadership and restore public confidence in the force. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's Ministry of Public Security has made an official request to the City of Montreal, asking for the go-ahead to relieve the former Montreal police chief of his duties as head of the force once and for all.

Under Article 278 of the province's Police Act and Article 110 of the city's charter, before the ministry can officially remove Philippe Pichet from the police service, it must first get the OK from Montreal's city council and the city's public security committee.

It made that request to the City of Montreal on Monday, in light of a preliminary report by the interim head of the SPVM, Martin Prud'homme, on the administration of the police service.

A copy of that report has been sent to Pichet.

Prud'homme, the Sûreté du Québec director general who took over from Pichet after his suspension last December, sent his report to Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux on May 25. 

The ministry made the report public today.

"It's important to me that Montrealers are informed of what's happening in their police force. That's why I'm making this report public," Coiteux said in a statement, describing the findings in Prud'homme's report as "worrisome."

"As a result, I've asked Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante to get the opinion of city council and the public security committee as to Pichet's situation," the minister said.

In the report, Prud'homme said that despite being aware of problems in the SPVM's internal investigations unit, "few important changes were made to control the situation and ensure the proper management of the unit."

The actions taken by the previous police administration in 2017 did not reassure people of the SPVM's integrity, said Prud'homme.

Martin Prud'homme, the Sûreté du Québec's director general and the author of the report, was put in charge of the SPVM on an interim basis after Pichet's suspension last December. (Livestream/ville.montreal.qc.ca)

When Prud'homme and his team began their work, the force was going through what the interim chief described as "a crisis of confidence" — experienced both by its own members and by the public at large.

"Still today, members remain apprehensive to openly express themselves, even when they're asked to. They fear reprisals. The climate in which our members worked was, unfortunately, very negative, even unhealthy."

Prud'homme's preliminary findings follow on the heels of last November's damning report by former Quebec deputy justice minister Michel Bouchard which led to Pichet's suspension.

Bouchard concluded the former chief had demonstrated a lack of leadership in failing to restore public confidence in the SPVM.

Bouchard also outlined a need to put "an end to a climate of tension and suspicion that has developed within the SPVM."

Pichet suing Montreal, Quebec over suspension

Two months after Pichet was suspended, the ex-police chief was put in charge of the city's security guards.

Last month, he announced he was suing the City of Montreal, the public security minister and the Quebec government for the way his suspension was handled.

In a legal document he filed, Pichet asked the Quebec court to overturn his suspension and order that he be given his job back.

In response to the developments Monday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said Pichet would be given an opportunity to address the city's public security committee in the coming days.

The city will then make its recommendation, which the public security minister will use in his decision on whether or not to dismiss Pichet, the mayor said in a written statement.

"Our goal is, and will continue to be, making sure Montrealers have full confidence in the police," Plante said.

Pichet's lawyer said the ex-SPVM chief has no comment on the latest developments. The police union, too, declined to comment.

Pichet was named SPVM chief in 2015 by the former Coderre administration.

With files from Derek Marinos and Radio-Canada

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