Former police chief Pichet to be given chance to defend himself: Plante

Mayor Valérie Plante says she will give former Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet a chance to defend himself before making a recommendation on whether he should lose his job.

Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said Monday he is asking Montreal city council and the city’s public security commission for their recommendations before making a final decision on whether Pichet should be dismissed.

Coiteux made public a harshly critical report by interim police chief Martin Prud’homme on Pichet’s performance as police chief and said the ball is now in the city’s court to decide Pichet’s future.

Under the city’s charter, the minister must consult Montreal city council and the city’s public security commission before acting.

In December, Coiteux suspended Pichet with pay in the wake of a devastating internal report by former deputy justice minister Michel Bouchard that found the city’s police department deeply divided and in a state of organizational disarray.

“I consider it very important that Montrealers be informed of the situation regarding their police force. That is why I am making this report public, which confirms several observations made by Mr. Bouchard during his administrative inquiry,” Coiteux said in a statement Monday.

“So I asked the mayor of Montreal, Mrs. Valérie Plante, to seek the advice of the municipal council and the public security committee on the situation of Mr. Pichet,” he added.

Plante, who is on an economic mission to Japan, acknowledged Coiteux’s request in a statement and said she would take steps to fulfill it.

“Over the next few days, Philippe Pichet will have the opportunity to testify before the Public Safety Committee to express his point of view. At the end of this process, the appropriate officials in the city of Montreal will formulate an opinion. The minister will take this opinion into account when considering the possibility of recommending the dismissal of Philippe Pichet to the Quebec government,” Plante said.

The mayor added that her ongoing goal is “to ensure that Montrealers have full confidence in their police service.”

The meeting with Pichet has not yet been scheduled, but one will be set up in the next few days, said Plante’s spokesperson, Geneviève Justras.

In the report, Prud’homme says Pichet’s leadership did not reassure “the public on the integrity of the police service of the city of Montreal.”

Even though upper management knew about problems with the force’s Internal Affairs Division, “few significant changes had been made to regularize the situation and ensure the sound management of this unit,” Prud’homme wrote.

“It will take time and a lot of skill to regain the trust of our members,” Prud’homme said.

Pichet was named police chief in 2015 by then-mayor Denis Coderre. In December, Coiteux named Prud’homme, the head of the Sûreté du Québec, as interim Montreal police chief with a one-year mandate to reorganize the island’s police force.

In February, Pichet was reassigned to supervise the security guards at Montreal city hall. Last week, Pichet filed a lawsuit against the city to try to get his job back.

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