A former organized crime investigator with the Montreal police who accused the force of corruption and fabricating evidence says he's skeptical about the provincial police's mandate to look into the allegations.
Giovanni Di Feo says politicians, authorities and the public need to be strong-willed to change what he claims is a culture of impunity in the Montreal police's internal affairs department.
Di Feo, along with his former colleague Jimmy Cacchione, recently came forward claiming they were forced out of their jobs in 2013 after trying to blow the whistle on corruption in the city police.
"We had information on the fact that some people were actually fabricating information against other police officers and regular criminals," Di Feo told The Canadian Press in an interview Wednesday.
"We had approached our superiors about it and we wrote a letter to internal affairs as well. This was (in 2011 and 2012) — just before we were laid off."
Di Feo and Cacchione investigated the Mafia and Hells Angels and were also tasked with two internal probes against police officers suspected of corruption.
The two men allege members of the force's internal affairs department embellish or fabricate evidence against lower-ranking officers who fall out of favour. Spurious investigations were then allegedly launched to obtain phone records and other surveillance warrants in order to intimidate colleagues.
The allegations, which surfaced Tuesday night in a program broadcast on French-language network TVA, compelled the city's police chief to ask provincial police to investigate.
Chief Philippe Pichet admitted Wednesday he's concerned the allegations will undermine public confidence in the force.
"Citizens have to keep confidence in the police department, so it's very important for me to take action to eliminate all grey zones around that situation," Pichet said in an interview.
Cacchione and Di Feo were suspended without pay in June 2013 following an internal disciplinary investigation.
They later left the force after reaching amicable agreements.
The ex-officers said they hadn't seen the evidence that prompted their removal from the force.
They claim to have consulted several documents that led them to believe that investigators from the internal affairs department fabricated the evidence against them.
During the TVA broadcast, a third ex-police officer, Roger Lariviere, alleged he was the victim of an internal affairs investigation based on trumped-up evidence.
TVA also reported it received a letter from a current high-ranking member of the city police who said it was "disgusting" the way internal affairs conducts its investigations.
The officer, whose name was not made public, said the way suspects are treated by the internal affairs department is contingent on who the suspect's friends are, or to "satisfy the desire of vengeance from the higher-ups."
Pichet described the allegations as "troubling" and promised to take immediate action if the provincial police investigation shows evidence of wrongdoing.
Montreal police have previously faced criticism after it emerged they obtained warrants to monitor journalists' phones as part of an internal probe into police misconduct.
Four Montreal police officers were also arrested in July 2016, with two facing various charges including perjury, attempting to obstruct justice, soliciting and obtaining sexual services.
On Wednesday, the chief said he still has confidence in the force despite having to learn about the recent allegations on TV.
"We have very professional police officers and we're doing our job the best way we have to do it," Pichet said. "Are we perfect? The answer is no."
Di Feo is skeptical there is a strong will in the provincial police to get to the bottom of the allegations.
"As far as we're concerned that's not really the proper way to do it," he said.
Di Feo said the province's bureau for independent police investigations would be better placed to conduct the probe.
"It's all about who is supervising the investigation and who are the investigators," he said.
"You can send them wherever you want but if you don't have a supervisor who knows about investigations and who will go in-depth, you won't get results."
— With files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud in Montreal