Quebec broadens inquiry into Montreal police force

Quebec broadens inquiry into Montreal police force

Quebec Public Security Minister and Municipal Affairs Minister Martin Coiteux responds to reporters questions on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

MONTREAL — The Quebec government is broadening its investigation into allegations of corruption and wrongdoing within the Montreal police force, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux announced Friday.

At a late-afternoon news conference, Coiteux said municipal forces from Quebec City, Longueuil and Gatineau will help provincial police because the number of allegations has risen in recent days.

“Late last night, I was informed that several additional cases had been signalled to the (provincial police) since it was named to lead the investigation,” he said.

“This serious information suggests that beyond certain files, there are also more systemic issues, notably involving the (Montreal police’s) internal investigation practices.”

Coiteux also said the role of the RCMP in the investigation will be increased.

In addition to adding police forces to the investigation, Coiteux said a separate administrative probe will look specifically at how Montreal police handles internal investigations and how the force operates.

Earlier this week two former organized crime investigators with the Montreal police appeared on a TV show and accused the force of corruption and fabricating evidence.

The men alleged members of the force’s internal affairs department embellish or fabricate evidence against lower-ranking officers who fall out of favour.

Ex-policemen Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione also alleged spurious investigations were then launched to obtain phone records and other surveillance warrants in order to intimidate colleagues.

The allegations prompted Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet to ask provincial police to investigate as he acknowledged he was concerned the allegations would undermine public confidence in his force.

On Friday, Coiteux said he was adding manpower because the new allegations were “more complex” and more officers were needed to make sure the probe remained impartial.

“We have to make sure those investigators that will have the responsibility to conduct the investigations are totally independent from the questions being asked,” he said.

He said the province’s recently-formed police watchdog does not have the resources to lead the probe, but said the organization’s director would help oversee the process.

Coiteux said someone would be appointed to lead the administrative investigation in the coming days.

Pichet has also been asked to submit a report outlining the steps he will take to address the allegations and ensure the population doesn’t lose confidence in the force.

The police chief took to his Twitter account Friday evening to say he would offer his “full and complete cooperation” to the investigation.

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