Advocates worry minority relations will be ignored as Montreal’s new police chief tackles internal crisis
After a homeless man was fatally shot outside the Old Brewery Mission in January, its president began meeting regularly with Philippe Pichet, then head of the Montreal police department.
Pichet and Matthew Pearce were working on ways to improve relations between police and the city’s homeless population. Officers were dispatched to serve food at the mission and take part in training sessions led by its staff.
But last Wednesday’s meeting was abruptly cancelled. Pichet’s work as police chief was damned in a government report released that morning and he was promptly suspended — halting his work with Pearce.
“We were on the right path and we have to keep going,” Pearce said Sunday. “My concern would be that the kind of priority Pichet gave to this matter will also be given by the new police chief.”
Replacing Pichet, for the time being, is Martin Prud’homme, who is on leave from his post at the head of the Sûreté du Québec.
Prud’homme, of course, will be expected to address the long list of internal problems highlighted in the report that led to Pichet’s suspension.
But he will also be under scrutiny to repair the force’s relationship with some of the city’s most marginalized communities. That’s something that was neglected in recent years as the Montreal police force increasingly became embroiled in scandal, according to some civil rights advocates.
And they question whether Prud’homme is the right person to deal with the issue, given the SQ has been beset by its own problems with minority groups.
Diversity relegated to backburner?
The provincial government’s report into the SPVM described a “deep malaise” within the force.
“Confidence of civil and police personnel in the police leadership is at an extremely worrying level,” thanks in part to a number of internal investigations that were botched, the report found.