4 Montreal police officers have been criminally charged after an investigation into whether or not the internal affairs unit of the Montreal Police Department was rigging or exaggerating evidence against fellow officers.
The investigation started in 2017 after two police officers, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione, claimed they were targeted with false evidence and charges after speaking up against corruption in the department.
It found that the internal investigations unit–the police who monitor the police–protected friends while targeting their enemies. In a description that’s tough to forget, the report described probes that were launched “out of biases tied to vengeance.”
The scandal led to the then-Chief, Philippe Pichet, being fired, but the scandal lingers.
And why does this matter to you? Because the problems identified in this scandal take place in too many organizations today.
- The rules enforcers become rules breakers–Internal Affairs are supposed to be the police who police the police–not be the bad guys. Applying this outside of Montreal, is your HR department making things up as they go along because of pressure from top leadership? Are the results of investigations more like predetermined conclusions in search of a storyline?
- Multiple sets of rules depending on who is involved–I met with police union leadership not long ago. Their complaints about their leaders were not about pay or benefits. They focused entirely on their union members getting in trouble for doing/not doing things the department’s leaders never get sanctioned for
- Retaliation–if someone speaks up, even in ways that protect the organization they serve and its stated values, they are forced out or retaliated against. It sends a chilling message to anyone who sees wrongdoing
- Loss of trust, far beyond the walls of the organization–When scandals emerge–especially ones that expose hypocrisy–the public’s trust is lost. It’s undoubtedly made the job of every police officer in Montreal more difficult because it brings up the legitimate question of “If you can’t trust the police to investigate themselves, can you trust them to investigate the public.” That’s fair game and puts cops lives–and their family’s futures–at risk. And those of the public.
- Problems spread and mutate–I’ve seen it–and talk about it in my book, The Arsonist in the Office, Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees and Cultures. If you want to see problems spread, all you need is leadership condoning or ignoring problems right in front of them. Other bad actors step up and begin to play a game of ‘Can you top this?’ with their corruption. What starts in one department moves to the next. Why? Corruption has become an accepted part of your culture
- Safety issues emerge–Safety of all kinds can become ‘at risk’ in a corrupted environment. Personal and physical safety, as would automatically become a result in a close-knit environment like a police culture–where you expect your colleagues to literally ‘have your back’ in dangerous environments. Or in office environments, the safety to give a differing opinion, raise a concern about a safety issue that could shut down a machine for a day to get it repaired and protect workers. All of these are possible–even likely–when no one knows who they can trust.
- Leadership–when you’re at the top of the mountain, your view is spectacular, but everyone can see you from below. You set the standards and you, more than anyone, can destroy them. And, if you’re not careful, destroy you because you have the further to fall.
If you’re in an environment with any of the warning signs above, know that if you’re concerned, you’re at risk. Those who are in toxic, broken cultures and raise a red flag of any kind can lose their livelihoods quickly.
And if you’re in leadership of a culture like the Montreal Police Dept. had and you’re OK with it, know that things can change quickly–and not to your advantage.
Chief Pichard? He lost his job. The corrupt internal affairs officers–now charged. And bad actions can catch up to anyone. If you want to turn things around, deal with your company’s issues and build a culture that’s ready for doing things the right way–that’s resistant to wildfires breaking out constantly and putting your job at risk–let’s talk about fireproofing your culture. Reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-662-7766
Pete Havel is a longtime lobbyist, political consultant and communications pro turned author, speaker, trainer and consultant on workplace culture and leadership issues. You can learn more about him at www.petehavel.com . He’s the author of The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures. It’s available at http://www.arsonistintheoffice.com and also at Amazon