Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld speaks during the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Calgary.
Gavin Young / Postmedia
Dealing with harassment and intimidation issues within police services will be a key topic of discussion for Canadian police chiefs who are meeting in Calgary this week.But the problem of discrimination and bullying among law enforcement organizations will likely never completely disappear, Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld said as he met with colleagues at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) annual conference.He noted 1970s-era Calgary police chief Brian Sawyer had highlighted the issue 40 or so years ago. “So, I’m not sure this work will ever be done,” he said.The three-day conference that’s brought more than 400 delegates to Calgary, Neufeld said, is tapping an international roster of presenters with expertise on internal harassment and intimidation.“All of us want to create safe and inclusive workplaces where employees can bring forward their best,” he noted.CACP head and Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said ensuring public safety is only part of the battle for law enforcement officers.
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police president Adam Palmer, left, speaks while Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld listens during the association’s annual conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
Gavin Young /
“We’re doing a lot of work on equity, diversity and inclusion within our police services. . . People keeping our communities safe must be physically and mentally healthy to do that,” he said.Last May, Neufeld’s predecessor Roger Chaffin spoke of a “dark struggle” against systemic sexual harassment and mistreatment within the service he led.That followed an uproar sparked by Postmedia’s reporting on a 2013 internal workplace review revealing claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation within the police service.A number of ex-officers have filed lawsuits against the service, and sometimes their union, claiming mistreatment.Neufeld said empowering supervisors to better handle such concerns, “so we can get a bit more prevention going on so we don’t have to rely on a complaints-based process,” is one approach being pursued.“A whole suite of human resource processes is up for modernization; we’re looking at it all,” he added.Both police chiefs emphasized the reality that police services aren’t alone in a society dealing with such challenges, but that law enforcers do operate at a higher level of trust.“When we have challenges, they definitely get dealt with in a public way more than other industries,” said Neufeld, crediting Chaffin with taking the issue seriously before stepping down.Related
The conference’s focus is heartening, said former constable Jen Magnus, who resigned from the Calgary Police Service in February 2017 over claims of ongoing bullying.“I would say it’s progress because human resources reform is in order and they’re collaborating across the country, examining the issues and trying to find solutions,” she said.But she also agreed with Neufeld that ending those tendencies is likely impossible given the size of the organizations and the realities of human nature.While she’s moved on from her police career, Magnus said she’s kept in contact with current officers who’ve been affected by a sometimes toxic workplace and who cautiously see Neufeld — who took the reins in June — as a good harbinger.“Speaking to my friends, it seems the culture is changing, that Neufeld is listening and talking to the lower ranks,” she said. “They still are skeptical and have been hurt in the past and all they have is hope that this will be different.”BKaufmann@postmedia.comOn Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn