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Montreal’s next police chief wants to be ‘closer to the community’

Click to play video: 'Fady Dagher named top cop in Montreal after 5 years as Longueuil police chief'
Fady Dagher named top cop in Montreal after 5 years as Longueuil police chief
WATCH: Montreal is trying to turn the page on policing by bringing officers closer to the community. At least, that's the promise being made by the incoming police chief Fady Dagher. The nominee to be the head of the police force appeared before the city's selection committee on Thursday morning and he was introduced to the public by the mayor of Montreal in the afternoon. Global's Tim Sargeant reports – Nov 24, 2022

The city’s top choice to lead the Montreal police department knows there is a lot of work to be done, but Fady Dagher wants to get closer to the people who call the city home.

“We have to find a way to get closer and closer to the community outside of the emergency calls,” he told Montreal’s public safety committee on Thursday morning.

The city is recommending Dagher, a long-time police officer, as its next chief of police. Mayor Valérie Plante officially made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

Since 2017, Dagher has held the top job with Longueuil police on Montreal’s shore shore, where he implemented community-based approach to policing — and his contract was extended for eight more years last December.

Click to play video: 'Community leaders believe Fady Dagher is good fit for new job as Montreal police chief'
Community leaders believe Fady Dagher is good fit for new job as Montreal police chief

Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier said in a statement that Dagher’s method is “the vision for the future” of policing in Quebec and his work made the city the standard bearer for it.

READ MORE: New immersive training program by Longueuil police deemed a success

Dagher, an immigrant from Côte d’Ivoire, holds a master’s degree in business administration from McGill University. He has been a police officer for about three decades and is former deputy chief of the Montreal police service.

When speaking about his plan for Montreal, Dagher says he wants a “more inclusive” police force that understands the challenges that different communities and immigrants face in the city.

But he also acknowledges it is “very difficult to build trust” between the community and police officers. He also says he recognizes that racial profiling by police is a problem, admitting that he has — often unconsciously — racially profiled people in the past.

Dagher says police officers need more training and, in his new role, he wants to give them those tools to learn about different communities in Montreal.

The police system also needs to go beyond its current practice of mostly responding to emergencies, according to Dagher. “We’ll always repeat the same responses and that won’t be the best solution every time,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Montreal man claims partial victory after two officers are suspended for racial profiling'
Montreal man claims partial victory after two officers are suspended for racial profiling

He explains this means building relationships with city dwellers in general, and not just in situations where police are called to deal with a crisis. It also means working with partners, like social workers.

“We ask our police officers to be therapists, to be saviours, to be the rumble, to be everything at the same time,” Dagher said. “It’s extremely complex to be able to do that for one human being.”

Read more: Fady Dagher emerges as top candidate to head Montreal police

But Dagher has a different method to tackle gun violence in Montreal, where there have been several high-profile shootings this year. In August, the province announced $250-million in funding to boost police presence and combat gun violence in the city.

That is where the police service has to strike a balance between a community approach and cracking down on crime, according to Dagher. They are both important — and necessary, he added.

“It’s not the time for dialogue,” he said when referring to gun violence. “It’s time to intervene.”

Dagher’s appointment will need to be approved by several municipal bodies and by the provincial government. He is expected to be sworn in in January 2023.

with files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier, Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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