When cops do bad things
Disciplined cops’ names kept secret
One cop made racist remarks at work.
Another was caught drunk driving.
One was disciplined for smuggling booze.
Another failed to appear in court.
And two were involved in minor car crashes.
All six of these MRC des Collines Police officers are still with the force. Their superiors refuse to name them. In fact, the police department also didn’t tell the public about these disciplinary cases. The details, untold until now, were revealed in a Low Down investigation launched in June 2020 and drawn from Access to Information requests and interviews.
In the search for information, the MRC des Collines denied multiple requests to identify officers and cited two sections of Quebec’s Access to Information Act — 53 and 54 — that state personal information is confidential unless the person consents or it was obtained during a trial, and if the document identifies someone.
“Under the act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information, we can not divulge this information,” MRC des Collines Police Insp. Joêl Blain replied in a statement.
The disciplinary cases involve only a handful of the department’s 80 officers, which had a $15.3 million budget in 2020.
Across the river, the Ottawa Police Department doesn’t keep the names of disciplined officers secret. It has an entire website dedicated to police disciplinary cases, which names the officers, details the incidents, provides the dates of disciplinary hearings, and posts the decisions. In Quebec, officers are usually only named when the province’s independent investigation office or its police ethics committee become involved, or their cases make it to court. Though MRC sergeant-detective Sébastien Roy’s drunk driving case made it to court, the police department never made it public or issued a press release.
Montreal-based Coalition contre la répression et les abus policiers has been advocating for more police transparency since its founding in 2008. Spokesperson Alexandre Popovic said that he hopes laws about access to information on cases relating to police misconduct will change and that disciplinary case information should be available like it is in Ontario.
“How come it’s so secret in Quebec?” he asked.
Popovic said transparency will be critical as police departments try to build public trust.
“Confiance rime à la transparence,” he said in French, which translates to, “Trust rhymes with transparency.”
The Sûreté du Québec arrested MRC Sgt. Sébastien Roy, 46, on suspicion of drunk driving in 2015 and 2018. The MRC, which keeps these details secret, did not reveal the officer’s rank. The MRC website lists him as a sergeant-detective.
Roy was acquitted in 2017 for his 2015 DUI arrest in Maniwaki, but was fined $1,000 and banned from driving in March 2019 after being found guilty for drunk driving.
Roy did not respond to requests for comment.
As for the officer who made racist remarks in 2018, they were given a written warning. When asked, Blain wouldn’t provide details about the racist remark.
“The remark was made in a general conversation with co-workers, which was then reported to management, resulting in the disciplinary action,” he told The Low Down.
The officer who was disciplined in 2016 for smuggling booze and inappropriate use of social media was suspended for two weeks without pay. Blain said that the officer posted a photo online of themselves with too many bottles of alcohol in their luggage when flying back into Canada.
Acting on an anonymous tip, police found the photo and message online from the officer who was disciplined after an internal affairs investigation.
In another case, an officer was given a written warning in 2016 for not showing up to court.
The officers involved in the minor accidents with their cruisers were given verbal warnings in 2016 and 2018. Blain said the 2018 discipline was handed down because an officer backed into a post causing minor damage to the cruiser. He didn’t have details about the 2016 accident, but said it was similarly minor and that no one was injured.
At-times dysfunctional department
A 2017 court case involving then-deputy chief for the MRC des Collines Police Sylvain Tanguay revealed an at-times dysfunctional department.
During the legal battle over his dismissal, court records revealed that an officer was spotted napping in a police cruiser, and one of the officers was found to be frequenting an illegal gambling house in Gatineau and posting inappropriate content on his personal Facebook page.
That case resulted in Tanguay’s reinstatement with the department. He went back to work in November 2018.
When asked why the six officers between 2016 and 2019 received disciplines amounting to slaps on the wrist when people in other professions or private citizens could face court cases or being fired if caught doing the same thing, Blain wrote, “We are governed by the [Quebec] Police Act.”
He quoted section 119 of that act, which states that officers are dismissed only if they are found guilty of breaking the Canadian Criminal Code unless specific circumstances justify another sanction. Blain added that the MRC des Collines Police has its own code of conduct.
Roy, who was found guilty of DUI in 2019 and disciplined with a suspension, was able to keep his job because the Police Act gives officers an opportunity to appeal their cases, Blain said. He added that the appeals committee suspended him and let him keep his badge.
MRC des Collines Police Chief Yves Charette didn’t respond to several requests for comment.
Popovic, of the Montreal-based coalition, said that police transparency laws will only change if there’s public pressure on lawmakers.
“It’s our taxes right? We should know what’s happening with our taxes. I fail to see how this could be a privacy issue, we’re talking about police officers on the job,” he said.