Workplace review adds to long history of CPS cultural investigations

The Calgary Police Service has long been plagued by workplace culture issues.

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The Calgary Police Service’s long history with investigations into its workplace culture entered a new chapter Wednesday when its civilian oversight body ordered a new review following allegations of bullying and discrimination by a former human resources director.

Despite a handful of reviews over the past decade, Calgary’s police association and an employee who resigned in 2017 cite several long-standing issues that still impede their ability to improve service culture.

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While the Calgary Police Commission said a cultural review had been discussed in recent months, the need for one came to a head after Angela Whitney, a former CPS human resources director who resigned in 2021, posted on Facebook. social networks a series of accusations citing toxic behavior in the service.

CPS has filed a lawsuit seeking an order removing Whitney’s comments and posts from social media and media coverage. She is also seeking a court order preventing her from making any further publications or interviews.

“My own experiences, as I noted as a senior leader during a commission-ordered human resources reform, included gender and equality, abuse of authority, harassment and the failure to adequately ensure a harassment-free workplace,” she said. Whitney on Wednesday night.

When current Police Chief Mark Neufeld took office in 2019, he “inherited a very dysfunctional human resources structure,” said Doug King, a criminologist at Mount Royal University.

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CPS has long been plagued by workplace culture issues. Former Chief Roger Chaffin spoke in 2018 of a “dark fight” against systemic sexual harassment and mistreatment within the service during his tenure.

The service has also undergone several reviews over the past two decades. An internal review conducted in 2013 revealed allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation. That year, an earlier report that had not been public had found in 2009 a “pervasive theme” of bullying. The report urged CPS to take action and warned that such conditions would continue if no action was taken.

“There were serious and verifiable issues relating to sexual harassment and bullying occurring within the police service,” King said.

King said he doesn’t believe the audit is a tacit admission that CPS’s work culture is not changing.

“I think it’s a great idea to have a third party come in from time to time when you and your agency are experiencing a crisis and do regular check-ins,” King said. “However, the fact is that if things don’t change, they will have to be addressed, and who knows what that might be.”

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Former officer ‘frustrated that this is still happening’

But Jan Magnus, a former officer who resigned from the service in 2017 over allegations of ongoing harassment, has reservations that the audit will change CPS culture in the short or long term. Magnus now owns a consulting company that conducts workplace culture reviews and research for companies in the private and non-profit sectors.

“My concern when I saw that the police commission was going to do a cultural review was that it would be nothing more than a check mark,” he said.

Several friends and former colleagues have told Magnus that morale at CPS has fallen to levels seen during former Chief Chaffin’s tenure, Magnus said. Those former colleagues have also told their senior management that trust among front-line officials is minimal, he said.

“There’s no trust and they don’t feel supported, at least the people I’ve spoken to now,” said Magnus, who had expressed cautious optimism about the trajectory of the service after Neufeld’s appointment as police chief in 2019.

“It frustrates me that this is still happening.”

However, because Neufeld received a vote of confidence last May from the commission when his contract was extended through 2027, the review is unlikely to have an impact on his tenure, King said. At the time, the commission called Neufeld an agent of both stability and change amid a turbulent period for CPS.

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Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld.
Police Chief Mark Neufeld of the Calgary Police Service speaks to the media on September 5, 2023. Archive Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Neufeld told media Wednesday that it is difficult to implement changes at CPS because its workforce is dominated by men and cited the province’s Police Act as an impediment to responding to complaints quickly.

King said the Police Act legislation in its current form is “slow” and “cumbersome”, which he called a “major obstacle” to allowing police to respond to complaints as they arise. But he also said the traditional organization of police forces makes it difficult to adapt to a modern workplace.

“The big question people always ask is, ‘Are law enforcement agencies so outdated that they can’t address problems?’” King said.

‘Lack of resources’ a problem: Calgary Police Association president

John Orr, president of the Calgary Police Association, hopes the review will focus on CPS culture and not just the actions of “individual rank-and-file members.”

Currently, internal complaints are not handled efficiently, largely because CPS human resources departments are understaffed and lack the authority to handle complaints quickly, Orr said.

“I think there is a lack of resources available to adequately address these issues…they tend to drag on much longer than we would like,” he said.

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While amending the Police Act would be helpful, he said, better support for human resources departments would speed up the complaints process.

“We need to properly empower these areas to address these issues appropriately, so that our members have faith, that when they raise these concerns… they will be taken seriously and dealt with quickly.”

Morale at CPS has been low for several years. Its most recent survey, released last October, found that 77 percent of members disagreed with the statement “morale at CPS is good,” up 10 percentage points from the previous year.

“The numbers are still very poor,” Orr said, referring to the morale data, “and I think until we have a system where there is a clear process, members feel that their complaints are taken seriously, I don’t see those figures.” improving until that happens.”

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