In the aftermath of the publications of details from a shocking 2013 workplace review of the Calgary Police Service, some serious questions are being asked – and need to be asked – about how deep this problem runs and what has changed over the last three years.
Here’s our conversation:
Colley-Urquhart’s recommendations are as follows:
1.Immediately engage a properly qualified consultant to initiate the process for establishing the positionof Independent Member Advocate along with a third party reporting protocol.
2.Engage the same properly qualified consultant to build on the work already completed by conducting a thorough review of CPS systems, structure, policy and processes related to positive workplace issues.
Ultimately, it will be up to the police commission to decide whether such steps are needed. It’s hard to see why this wouldn’t warrant serious consideration.
As I wrote in the Calgary Herald this week, the focus needs to be on fixing this problem:
As Calgary’s police chief pushes back against criticism stemming from a damning 2013 internal workplace review, let’s not forget the fact that it took until now for that report to even see the light of day.
It was Postmedia that first published details of this report, which outlined shocking claims of bullying, intimidation, sexual assault and sexual harassment. It also pointed to the existence of a workplace culture that discouraged officers from coming forward, with some even feeling that they might be punished for raising concerns.
Many current and former police officers have come forward to Postmedia to share their experiences. City councillor and police commission member Diane Colley-Urquhart says she has met in private with many female police officers who expressed similar fears and concerns.
It’s certainly reasonable that Calgarians — and their elected officials — would ask tough questions about why we’re only learning of this now, how this culture was able to grow and fester, and just what is being done to fix these problems.
It all comes at a terrible time for the Calgary Police Service, as the force has been reeling from negative coverage around several high-profile incidents involving alleged officer misconduct. A poll released in September by Mainstreet Research showed that 48 per cent of Calgarians disapproved of the job the CPS is doing.So for police Chief Roger Chaffin, not even a year into the job, some tremendous challenges lay ahead. Being open and transparent is an obvious place to start, especially given the perception that this damning report was being kept from the public.
Chaffin posted an open letter to Calgarians on Facebook last week, in which he defended how the CPS has dealt with this situation, but also to take aim at certain critics.
While Chaffin declared that “we answer to you, our citizens,” he went on to lash out at “those in the political realm” who “need to be clear about their intentions and their facts.”
“This is not a time for punditry,” he said, although it’s unclear as to exactly what he means or to whom he is referring. A letter to citizens seems like a poor venue for veiled axe grinding.
If by “punditry” the chief means commentators and citizens sharing their thoughts and opinions on the matter, then that is both wishful thinking and arrogant. As Chaffin himself says, the CPS answers to the citizens, so we’re all entitled to our opinions.
Perhaps Chaffin was referring more specifically to Colley-Urquhart, who has urged him to meet with the women who came forward to her. Colley-Urquhart has also suggested that the human resources department at the CPS be dissolved and members instead report to the city’s own HR department.
If Chaffin disagrees with that, then he’s entitled to make his own case. However, to a large extent, he’s shooting the messenger here. The issue at hand is what’s in the report and what other officers have described. Colley-Urquhart has simply passed on what she has heard directly from many female officers. That may be awkward and uncomfortable for the chief, but that comes with the job.
Vocal and critical members of city council are not the problem here, nor is anyone else who is asking tough questions of the CPS and the chief.
Perhaps Chaffin should concern himself less with the critics and more so with the problems within the force. His letter claims that “the recommendations from the 2013 workplace review have been implemented to a great extent.” But what does “a great extent” mean? Are there objective measurements by which we can deduce to what extent this disturbing culture of bullying and harassment has been eliminated? Why are so many officers still fearful of coming forward?
This isn’t to suggest the chief isn’t committed to fixing this problem. It’s also not something that’s going to be fixed overnight. Given what we now know about this situation, though, questions and concerns are certainly fair game.