City councillor and police commission member Diane Colley-Urquhart said she supports Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin “unequivocally” and wants to work with him to improve the workplace environment within the service after allegations of discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment. She said she’s excited the issues are “finally” out in the open and that everyone is being held accountable on how best to move forward.
Colley-Urquhart spoke at a press conference Wednesday to address the controversy around comments she made about a 2013 Calgary Police Service workplace review and other complaints brought to her attention.
WATCH BELOW: Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart explains her role in the recent issues brought forth regarding the Calgary Police Service.
The councillor recently came under fire for speaking publicly about having met with female police officers who had serious concerns with the workplace environment at the CPS, suggesting problems were not isolated to just a few.
She said she first met with two or three women at her home in February, with meetings growing to as many as 18 people with complaints. The councillor shared some of the emails she’s received, detailing examples of discrimination and harassment.
Watch below: Diane Colley-Urquhart says the Calgary Police Service needs a third party to hear complaints
“This isn’t just about women,” she said. “You can read in [the emails] some of the stories that some of our male police officers have endured, as well. They’re very similar- whether they are fear of retaliation, bullying, whether they feel that they’re being discriminated because of their diversity.”
She said the meetings continued until the end of April, then (with their support) she had an “excellent” three-hour meeting with Chief Chaffin on April 29, before removing herself from the situation.
“I did not want any of this going to the Calgary Police Commission.”
“I believe that this was something our new chief of police should deal with and manage on his own,” she said.
Watch below: Coucillor Diane Colley-Urquhart says when things didn’t go well between complainants and the chief, she was contacted even though she had said she couldn’t be involved anymore.
The councilllor said for reasons she doesn’t know, the women were unhappy with the outcome of “what happened after that” but she didn’t respond to their emails. She said the group then wrote a letter to the commission, prior to meeting with some CPC members.
She said many continue to suffer in the months since she first met with them.
“Some of them have significant health conditions, some of them have resigned, some of them are on long-term disability and short-term disability now. It’s not a good situation.”
READ MORE: Ward Sutherland ‘disappointed’ with Diane Colley-Urquhart’s lack of consultation on Calgary police workplace issues
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Chaffin and police commission chair Howard Shikaze held a rare joint news conference Tuesday, emphasizing Colley-Urquhart was not speaking on behalf of the commission in recent interviews. (Colley-Urquhart said Saturday she was excited to harmonize the HR departments of the City of Calgary and the CPS in the wake of the workplace review. She also said that if needed, the police commission would “talk to the minister of justice…to see if we need to further investigate” the CPS practices).
Colley-Urquhart clarified her position and commended the officials on what she called an “historic” press conference.
“Was I speaking for the commission? No. Do [councillors] speak out on police issues? Absolutely. Is it all rosy? No, it’s not. And sometimes you do have to be critical of the things that arise in the community.”
“I’m happy to shoulder any criticism that comes my way on how this has unfolded, but it was gratifying yesterday to see Chief Chaffin, the mayor of the City of Calgary and the Calgary Police Commission, standing together and acknowledging that this is a significant issue and that we are going to make it a top priority to deal with.”
READ MORE: Councillor to take Calgary Police Service workplace concerns to justice minister ‘if need be’
Watch below: Officials speak on Diane Colley-Urquhart’s outspoken criticism Nov. 1
Chaffin said Tuesday he wasn’t concerned someone was speaking out against him, but didn’t want the public to think nothing was being done within the service to address the allegations of harassment or discrimination in the CPS workplace.
“Misinformation creates divisiveness,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been criticized by councillors many times—I’m OK with that. I just didn’t want it to be a random characterization of the organization that wasn’t actually helping the cause I think we’re all trying to work towards.”
READ MORE: Calgary Police Commission has ‘full confidence’ in chief, lambasts councillors ‘speaking out of turn’
The next CPC meeting is Nov. 29 and is open to the public. Colley-Urquhart said she plans to bring her own recommendations forward at that meeting, specifically the establishment of a member advocate to help bring employees issues to light.
“The main thing is a member advocate – a third party mechanism where these employees can feel free to come forward and tell their story,” she said. “It’s one thing that we can say we’re doing things, it’s another for all of these stories and things that’ve happened to these employees to be heard. There has to be reconciliation and a validation for what these employees have incurred and their stories to be told.
“I don’t want people to take three years to take a human rights complaint forward and wait three years for something to be resolved. I don’t want this to proceed to a class action lawsuit like the RCMP where they denied it at first and now there’s a multimillion-dollar settlement. That isn’t the way we do things in Calgary.”