5 to 10 years to change attitude, behaviour in Montreal police force: police chief

It will take at least five to ten years to change the culture within the Montreal police force, says its chief.

Philippe Pichet presented his action plan to overhaul the force's policies and procedures and change the mentality of officers.

The plan follows allegations that officers with the internal affairs division targeted and made up evidence about fellow officers.

Pichet's plan contains 38 measures to revise operations from general governance to internal affairs to investigations including:

• changing the way they recruit investigators and police sources

• appointing a controller to oversee investigators

• limiting the mandate of investigators to two years

• better supervising of wiretap operations of elected officials and journalists and issuing a report about the procedures to the police chief

• advising managers about cases of perjury by officers and doing the appropriate followup

• revising the ethics code "which does not take into account today's reality"

• measures to identify "risky" and "problematic" behaviour

• grouping together senior officers at police HQ

Most of the measures are expected to be in place by the end of the year. Some are already underway, such as the transfer of special investigations to the SQ.

Pichet said the city's public security commission will help follow up on the plan. Hearings on the matter will be open to the public. The next one is scheduled for June 16.

Pichet, while presenting his plan to the commission this morning, faced questions about the length of time it will take to change the culture of the police force.

The police chief said the standard timeline for such a plan is five to ten years but added things are already underway and that he'd like to see changes in five rather than ten years.

Pichet said the current environment has been in place for 20 or 25 years, adding it will be a difficult job but that he will persevere and the police force will be resilient.

Pichet said he's noticed patterns of cliques and clans within the force that were created by the decentralization of powers into five regions resulting in a "type of unhealthy competition among parties who became 'kings of their fiefdoms."

Pichet said there are officers who are already critical of the plan or expressing resistance.

Chairperson of the public security commission Anie Samson suggested that officers who do resist change have no place on the force.

Projet Montreal city councillor Alex Norris who also sits on the commission expressed concern about internal investigations being handled by Montreal police and called for an independent body to conduct such inquiries.

Quebec's public security minister and Montreal's mayor have both endorsed the plan and reiterated their support for Pichet.