Fired Fredericton Police officer Cherie Campbell says officers have lost confidence in the leadership of the Fredericton Police Force. 

"I believe that the present leadership at the Fredericton Police Force has created a difficult, if not poisoned, work environment for the police officers there," said Campbell.

At a news conference in Fredericton on Wednesday, Campbell was joined by her lawyer T.J. Burke, and Cpl. Shane Duffy, president of the police union.

'This means that police officers are fearful of doing their jobs.'
- Cherie Campbell, former police officer

Campbell was responding to the New Brunswick Police Commission decision issued earlier on Wednesday.

nb-tj-burke

Campbell's lawyer, T.J. Burke, says she intends to appeal the Police Commission's decision. (CBC)

The arbitrator's ruling, recommending her dismissal, said that Campbell intentionally took $20-worth of makeup from Marden's Surplus & Salvage store in Houlton, Maine on Dec. 2, 2014.

It also said she used her position as a police officer to obtain favourable treatment after her arrest.

"[Campbell] clearly sought to influence [Houlton] officer Nason and to obtain favourable treatment from him," the decision said.

"Nobody is above the law, including police officers, and no preferential treatment ought to be sought or given because of one's position."

Last month, a police commission arbitrator also recommended that Fredericton Police Const. Jeff Smiley be dismissed. Four other officers are currently facing investigations into their conduct. Two are suspended with pay, and two are restricted to desk duties.

Campbell said officers now work under a constant fear of reprimand.

"This means that police officers are fearful of doing their jobs, fearful of policing, and fearful of living their lives, because they're fearful of the scrutiny and serious reprisal from management," said Campbell.

"I believe the outcome of my case was predetermined, not by the arbitrator but by the chief. The chief wanted my resignation, or termination, from the onset of the arbitration."

Possible risk for public

Police union president Cpl. Shane Duffy says fear of reprimand among officers could put the public at risk.

"In this environment we're in right now, I think most officers would think, it's going to cause a couple of seconds delay, and think that this is going to impact the rest of their career, if not end it," said Duffy.

Campbell's lawyer T.J. Burke says the former officer intends to appeal the police commission decision, through a judicial review.

Chief Leanne Fitch

Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch filed the complaint with the New Brunswick Police Commission about Const. Cherie Campbell. (CBC)

Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch told CBC News she would not be speaking to media until Thursday at the earliest. In a statement released on Wednesday, Fitch said: "I am confident in the process that has taken place and that the arbitrator made a fair decision," 

The decision, released by arbitrator Cedric Haines, says termination is the only appropriate remedy to be imposed.

The decision also says "theft of a small amount of makeup, in the grand scheme of things, is not a serious offence."

But, "theft by a police officer, even when off duty, constitutes a serious breach of the standard of conduct expected of a police officer," the decision said.

Hung jury in trial

Campbell was tried in Maine in May 2015 on a charge of theft by unauthorized taking. The case resulted in a hung jury. The matter ended up being settled out of court without a finding of guilt or innocence.

In July 2015, Burke said his client never intended to steal anything from the store.

"She put two or three types of lipstick eyeliners in the cart. These items fell through the holes a couple of times. She picked them up and put them in her pocket," he explained.

"She automatically realized that the items were still in her pocket. Apologized for it and then the Houlton Police were called and arrested her," he said.

At Wednesday's news conference, Campbell clarified that the items never fell through the cart, but she thought that they might. She said the incident was an honest mistake.

"I was fearful that day. I was scared of the consequences of my actions because I've never denied that I put those items in my pocket and walked out without paying for it. However, the intention was not there," she said.

The commission also charged Campbell with asking another police officer to try and keep news about her shoplifting arrest from Fitch. The arbitrator found there was insufficient evidence to support this charge.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated four other officers are currently suspended with pay. In fact, four other officers are currently facing investigations into their conduct. Two are suspended with pay, and two are restricted to desk duties.
    Jan 07, 2016 3:00 PM AT