MONTREAL – Quebec’s police forces need an overhaul to better respond to modern policing, which increasingly involves cases related to mental illness and cybercrime, according to a radical new report released Tuesday.
The five-member police committee formed at the request of the Minister of Public Security Geneviève Guilbault found that the basic police model as defined in the law on the police of the province “no longer reflects the reality on the ground or the expected role of the police “.
The committee’s report states that under the law, the police’s mission is “modeled after another era” and largely defined by “quantitatively measurable” actions, such as the number of fines imposed, arrests carried out and investigations resolved.
“However, while these elements remain relevant to a small extent, the new complexity with which police forces must juggle requires a more qualitative, data-driven approach, where the emphasis is on prevention and targeted interventions with police. citizens.”
The report noted that crimes committed online, such as identity theft, have skyrocketed and most police forces are ill-equipped to respond.
The Quebec police, according to the report, are increasingly called upon to intervene with clients suffering from mental health problems, and that they carried out 80,000 such interventions in 2019 alone.
The 490-page report made 138 recommendations for reform, touching on a variety of issues, including recruitment, communication, organization and funding.
He recommended reducing the number of police forces in the province to 13, from 31, noting that small organizations do not always have the specialized skills needed to conduct complex investigations. These forces are also not mandated to investigate many of the fastest growing areas of crime, including crimes involving computer data, child pornography and criminal offenses committed by groups operating in multiple regions.
The report suggested amalgamating several police forces north and south of Montreal into larger organizations, while indicating that some smaller municipal forces could be integrated into the Quebec provincial police.
He also proposed integrating the anti-corruption unit known as UPAC into a larger force dedicated to cybercrime and economic crimes.
According to the report, community policing must increasingly be done in partnership with community groups, with a renewed emphasis on using dialogue to solve problems.
Police stations should act as “security centers” which are “able to exercise positive leadership and mobilize different actors on the ground,” the committee said, referring to community groups. The report says these groups should get more stable funding in order to be able to provide better services.
“More than a community police force, it is a concerted and local police force, which must henceforth prevail in Quebec, with partnership and dialogue as main weapons,” he declared.
The report noted that despite recruitment efforts, women and minorities continued to be under-represented in the police force, and offered solutions, including paid training and job guarantees for applicants from backgrounds. racialized. He also suggested changing the criteria for admission to police training programs to take into account not only grades, but also interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
The committee recommended changes to the police watchdog, called the Bureau of Independent Investigations, including changing its status to an independent body as opposed to its current status as a specialized police force. He said the watchdog should publish his reasons when he decides not to recommend penalties to a police officer.
He also recommends more mental health support for police officers, who are more likely to commit suicide than in the field.
The five-member committee was chaired by the former mayor of Sherbrooke, Que., Bernard Sévigny, and also included two former police officers, a former judge and a former MP Marlene Jennings. The process included interviews with experts and consultations with members of the public, community groups, citizens and law enforcement.
In a statement, a group representing municipalities in Quebec expressed concern about some of the report’s recommendations – in particular the suggestion to abolish some smaller police forces.
“Several communities have chosen to preserve their (police) services in order to serve their communities and control costs,” said Jacques Demers, president of the Union of Quebec municipalities.
Demers said some cities fear their costs will rise if they are forced to switch to the Quebec Provincial Police.
Guilbault says the Quebec government will respond to the report on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2021.
– With files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud.