The association representing municipal police officers in New Brunswick is vowing to fight for changes to the authority of the New Brunswick Police Commission after an arbitrator ordered Wednesday that a second member of the Fredericton Police Force be fired for discreditable conduct.
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Arbitrator Cedric Haines ruled that Const. Cherie Campbell be fired for shoplifting $20 worth of cosmetics in Maine and for attempting to seek favourable treatment from a fellow police officer. Campbell has said she will seek a judicial review of the decision.
'Any penalty is supposed to be corrective in nature, not punitive.' - Bob Davidson, labour analyst for New Brunswick Police Association
New Brunswick Police Association labour analyst Bob Davidson calls the decision to fire Campbell "heavy-handed."
"The Police Act states very clearly … any penalty is supposed to be corrective in nature, not punitive," said Davidson.
"Our opinion is that the arbitrator could have clearly looked at this and said, `Well, there is doubt here and there are corrective ways of dealing with this,' not heavy, punitive action."
Police Act review
Minister of Public Safety Steven Horsman has initiated a review of the Police Act and Davidson said the association will make its case for changes to the committee carrying out the review.
"Nobody can be subjected to an environment where the prosecution selects, appoints, and pays for the person you are going to be sitting in front of," said Davidson. "That's where the rubber hits the road."
The commission was established through the Police Act in 2005 and was to be an oversight body, "not a judge, jury, hangman like is going on now," said Davidson.
Stakeholders, including the police association, used to agree on a list of possible arbitrators, but Davidson said the commission has since started acting on its own and appointing arbitrators without consultation.
"Now we have the New Brunswick Police Commission selecting arbitrators, appointing arbitrators, paying the arbitrators, which is totally unacceptable," he said. "That is a denial of natural justice and it is, technically, institutional bias.
"All we want for our officers is a fair process, the same as the criminals that they have to deal with have a fair process," he said.
Davidson made many of the same points when called to testify at the outset of Campbell's hearing in December, when the police association objected to Haines serving as the arbitrator in the case because of the lack of consultation.
In his decision in the Campbell arbitration, Haines rejected Davidson's opinion that the police association is to be consulted on the list of arbitrators.
"The duty and obligation to establish and maintain the list of arbitrators is that of the commission and not that of the minister," states Haines in his decision.
"I am of the opinion that the expectation to which Davidson alluded in his testimony, and on which the respondent's objection is based, is not founded in law," states Haines. "There is before me no evidence establishing a clear, unambiguous and unqualified basis for such an expectation.
"Moreover, the evidence on which the respondent relies in support of her objection fails to establish any lack of independence on my part, or that she will not be treated impartially and without bias."