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The big police forces of Quebec are working under suspicion

Giuseppe Valiante, the Canadian press

Published Saturday, March 9, 2019 07:58 EST

MONTREAL – The past two years have not been easy for Quebec's three great police forces, whose officers have worked in a climate of mistrust, scandal, and now at the highest level, charged with criminal offenses.

Internecine rivalries have divided the Montreal police. Provincial police were accused of maltreating indigenous women in the northwestern city of Val-d & # 39; Or. And the anti-corruption unit, known as UPAC, suffered from bad morale, recruitment difficulties, and a series of embarrassing and harmful press leaks.

This week, provincial police chief Martin Prud & # 39; homme was suspended until the results of an investigation into a crime were committed.

The criminologist Maria Mourani, a former member of parliament of the Bloc Quebecois Montreal, said it was difficult to predict whether Quebecers have begun to lose confidence in their police.

"Every organization has its problems," she said in a recent interview. The fact that the public is aware of the many problems is a sign that democracy works, Mourani added. "If there was a serious rottening or a serious crisis in the police, then I'm not sure we would even know about it, because it would be endemic, and there would be a Silence Law, and it would go on."

Prud & # 39; homme had just returned to the Surete du Quebec after spending a year as interim head of Montreal police, who should clarify matters after the suspension of Philippe Pichet. Pichet's suspension as chief followed the reports that the troop's internal investigations had exaggerated or fabricated evidence against officers and had helped to create a climate of revenge and mistrust.

On Friday, Minister of Public Security Genevieve Guilbault told reporters that Prud'homme was freed from misconduct that he could resume his role. However, it has so far given no information on the charges against him.

Quebec media reported that its suspension in 2017 was linked to a leak of journalists' leaks regarding a highly sensitive UPAC investigation by the Quebec Liberals and former Prime Minister Jean Charest. The media reported that two former UPAC officials who were involved in the unit's internal cause-of-leak investigation and have since returned to provincial police were assigned to desk work.

Investigations against Prudhomme are being carried out by the Quebec police officer, the bureau of the Enquetes Independantes. This office was also commissioned by the provincial government to investigate the UPAC leak in October 2018.

Guilbault said the allegations against Prudhomme – who was not arrested or charged with a crime – are "sensitive and complex". She said the government must "act swiftly and protect the integrity of the Surete du Quebec institution and citizens' trust in its institutions."

Francois Dore, a retired police officer from Quebec Province who also worked for Interpol, said people expect more from their police forces when he started law enforcement in the late 1970s.

"I do not believe that there is a lack of trust," he said in an interview this week. "What reassures me is that people ask more questions, they want to know what's going on."

However, Quebecers have not received many answers in recent years. Much of the current uncertainty can be traced back to the 2017 Quebecor media, which included documents related to a UPAC investigation against Charest and ex-Liberal party chief Marc Bibeau.

The leak revealed that the UPAC had placed Charest and Bibeau under surveillance as part of their "Machurer" probe. Charest's personal finances, passport details, and details of his travels across the US border were all collected by investigators, and the information was collected from Quebecor. Neither Charest nor Bibeau were charged.

Dore said, what remains unclear is whether the documents were leaked to drive the investigation or to protect Charest and Bibeau. Former UPAC chief Robert Lafreniere promised in 2017 to catch the "bandit" responsible for the leak.

In October 2017, Guy Ouellette, a liberal member of the Legislature, was arrested by UPAC for suspecting that he was involved in disseminating information about Charest and Bibeau. Ouellette, a former provincial police officer, denied the claims and was never charged.

Lafreniere, who had sought and obtained a second mandate as chairman of the UPAC under the former liberal government of Philippe Couillard, resigned without explanation on October 1, the election day in Quebec.

Despite the apparent uproar that affected the three main police in the province, work continues on the ground. Mourani said: "I would not say that there is a crisis … we can say that the police are professional."

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