Kennebecasis officer under criminal investigation for alleged sexual harassment

A senior inspector with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force is under criminal investigation for alleged intimidation, sexual harassment and obstruction involving a civilian employee, CBC News has learned.

Veteran inspector being investigated for allegations involving female civilian employee he supervised

Insp. Jeff Porter, of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force, has been suspended with pay since June 2016. (Facebook)

A senior inspector with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force is under criminal investigation for alleged intimidation, sexual harassment and obstruction involving a civilian employee, CBC News has learned, and the force's chief at the time retired in the wake of a scathing report that says he failed to properly investigate when the matter was brought to his attention.

Insp. Jeff Porter, a 29-year veteran of the force that covers Rothesay and Quispamsis, has been on leave for more than a year because of the alleged offences, which also include mischief.

Porter also faces a Police Act probe into his professional conduct.

He has been suspended with pay since June 2016, when the force also barred him from having any contact with the woman he allegedly sexually harassed.

None of the allegations against Porter have been proven. He declined through his Fredericton-based lawyer, Jamie Eddy, to comment, citing the "ongoing investigation."

Alleged inappropriate sexual behaviours

RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Chantal Farrah declined to comment, or even confirm the investigation, saying it would be inappropriate.

But sources and documents obtained by CBC News reveal the criminal and professional investigations all stem from accusations that Porter allegedly engaged in a series of inappropriate sexual behaviours involving a female civilian employee he supervised.

In February 2016, the woman confided in a female officer that she felt threatened and intimidated by Porter and wanted to quit.

The female officer told another female officer, who told Steve Palmer, the deputy chief at the time, who took the information to then-chief Stephen McIntyre and requested the allegations be investigated.

Four days later, McIntyre ordered an investigation — not into Porter but instead into the female officer in whom the civilian employee had confided.

Stephen McIntyre retired as chief of the Kennebecasis Regional Police on Nov. 4, 2016. (Facebook)
McIntyre declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation, but told CBC News he probably would have handled the matter differently if the civilian employee had been honest with him from the beginning about the "serious" and "substantive" allegations.

"At that time, the parties involved were not forthcoming and honest in dealing with me, which caused me to take the matter in a certain direction," said McIntyre, calling it "regrettable."

"Had I been given all the information, factually, truthfully right from the start, would this thing have gone differently? Ya, probably," said McIntyre.

Instead, he accused the female officer of "workplace harassment" for allegedly "poisoning the work environment" of Porter. He appointed Edward Huzulak, a former Bathurst police chief, to conduct the professional conduct investigation into the female officer.

Huzulak later filed a report recommending "no further action" against her.

'Ignored all policy, protocol and common sense'

The female officer subsequently filed a Police Act complaint against the chief with the Kennebecasis Regional Joint Board of Police Commissioners, which governs the force of 38 officers and five civilian employees.

In her complaint, she described the police department's best efforts to change how it responds to domestic abuse in the community so that those responsible are held accountable.

Yet the force's handling of an internal situation, "seems to have ignored all policy, protocol and common sense," the officer wrote in her complaint filed on June 2, 2016.

"I believe you will find that there are reasonable grounds to investigate these alleged breaches because they have the effect to undermine public confidence in the force if they continue to be ignored."

Lessons from a scandal

The officer also reminded the board of the case of fired CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, whose alleged treatment of employees was initially dismissed by management.

"The widely publicized … scandal has taught an important lesson for employers, to take sexual harassment seriously," the officer wrote. "Let us hope that it will be considered when viewing this case."

The officer said McIntyre's initial response to the allegations against Porter was to give the inspector "the weekend to 'sort things out' with the [alleged] victim."

If this was a member of the public, this case would not have been allowed to be handled this way, based on our own policies and the women's abuse protocols.- Female officer's complaint to police board

The following Monday, McIntyre met with both Porter and the alleged victim at the same time, according to the female officer's 12-page complaint.

"This showed a blatant disregard for the [alleged] victim and no accountability for the seriousness of the allegations," she wrote.

"If this was a member of the public, this case would not have been allowed to be handled this way, based on our own policies and the women's abuse protocols."

McIntyre contends he was led to believe the "victim or complainant" and the "senior officer" had resolved their differences, which he initially understood to be nothing more than a workplace dispute.

It "certainly wasn't criminal … not even a Police Act transgression," he said.

"When you look at that in hindsight, nobody makes a perfect decision every time," said McIntyre. "Could I, would I have done something different if I had been armed with other information? Yeah, probably. There was no malice," he said.

But a lawyer who was hired by the board to investigate the female officer's complaint against the chief said he didn't do enough to gather the information he needed to make his decision. 

Investigator's findings

Johanne-Marguerite Landry investigated the female officer's Police Act complaint against the former chief of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force, Stephen McIntyre. (CBC)
Moncton lawyer Johanne-Marguerite Landry submitted a three-page summary of her findings and conclusions, saying McIntyre "failed to maintain the integrity of the law, law enforcement and the administration of justice by failing to carry out an adequate investigation of serious allegations of misconduct," involving "threats and intimidation."

Landry found that McIntyre committed 23 breaches of various sections of the police code of conduct by, among other things, failing "to ensure that the improper or unlawful conduct of Insp. Porter was not concealed."

McIntyre didn't interview the female officer who alerted management to the allegations against Porter and failed to ensure the cellphones belonging to Porter and the female civilian employee were seized, despite "ample indications" the phones contained relevant evidence.

Landry, who has since been appointed a provincial court judge, also found McIntyre:

  • Engaged in discreditable conduct by, while on duty, acting in a manner that was prejudicial to the maintenance of discipline in the police force and was likely to bring the reputation of the force into disrepute.
  • Abused his authority.
  • Engaged in harassment by ordering the investigation of the female officer and improperly interfered with and potentially adversely influenced her career.
  • "Failed to avoid apparent conflict of interests."
  • "Failed to respect the rights of" the female civilian employee and the female officer who filed the Police Act complaint against him.

Landry concluded McIntyre's rationale for wanting the female officer investigated for workplace harassment was that her information about Porter was not backed up by the civilian employee, who initially said the confidant had lied.

But Landry found McIntyre's investigation into the allegations against Porter was "neither sufficient nor complete" when he ordered the investigation into the officer.

'Appropriate action will be taken'

Steve Palmer, who took over as chief of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force in November, is scheduled to retire in March. (Kennebecasis Regional Police Force)
Chief Steve Palmer, who was promoted from deputy chief when McIntyre retired, declined to comment on any specifics, citing the "integrity of the investigations and the privacy of the individuals involved."

"I would like to reassure the public that there are ongoing investigations taking place, conducted by outside agencies and upon the completion of those investigations, I want to assure the public that the appropriate action will be taken," he said.

Palmer said he is "at a loss to explain why it [has] taken as long as it has, except to say that it can be for a number of different reasons."

"What I can say is that these matters do not involve any member of the general public, and nor do they affect our ability to deliver our service."

RCMP handling investigation

The fact a Kennebecasis officer is under investigation has previously been reported, but the name of the officer, his rank and the nature of the allegations have never been released.

Local union president Cpl. Jason Murray confirmed the investigation involves a non-union member of the force but declined further comment.

Sources and documents, however, confirm that Porter, who joined the force as a patrol officer in 1988 and rose through the ranks, being promoted to sergeant of patrol, then major crime and now inspector of operations, is the subject of the investigation.

A team of RCMP officers is conducting the criminal investigation and, according to sources, recently seized his work computer, laptop and cellphone from the police station.

Former chief eventually called RCMP

This is the second criminal investigation Porter has faced in connection with the matter, documents show.

The cost of either investigation is unknown, but the money will come from the Kennebecasis force's budget — taxpayers' dollars.

The first investigation, conducted by RCMP Insp. Peter Kirchberger, was ordered by McIntyre in July 2016 — about five months after he was advised of the allegations against Porter.

By then the civilian employee, who initially said her confidant had lied, admitted the officer's account of her story was accurate and Porter was suspended.

It's unclear what, if any report Kirchberger filed.

I was very frustrated, there's no question, but I did not retire to avoid the outcome.- Stephen McIntyre, former chief

McIntyre announced his retirement while Landry's investigation was underway and retired four days after she filed her report to the board of police commissioners.

The board hosted a community "farewell reception" for him.

McIntyre, who served 38 years, 18 of them as chief, says his retirement was partly due to the stress of the workplace conflict, but it was not an attempt to avoid repercussions of his handling of it. 

"I was very frustrated, there's no question, but I did not retire to avoid the outcome," he told CBC News.

The New Brunswick Police Commission only has the authority to discipline active police officers. Once an officer leaves the force the commission has no jurisdiction to investigate or impose sanctions, which can range from a verbal reprimand to dismissal.

McIntyre said he "kinda regret[s]" not having the opportunity to argue his case at a settlement conference.

"You know part of me says, 'Gee, I wish the timing of this had been different, that I would've had an opportunity to go to a settlement conference because, look, if it had gone to a settlement conference I'm sure they would have weighed what the investigator said, they may not have necessarily agreed with the investigator.

"I certainly would have said, 'Well look, I tried to run this by the [New Brunswick] Police Commission on every turn and they were in concurrence that I was doing what was appropriate.'"

Service to community continues

Palmer, who inherited the matter when McIntyre retired and will himself retire next March, said the past year has been "very challenging."  

"Fortunately, the members have risen above it and continue to provide an excellent level of service," he said.

"Since I have been named chief, I have taken a number of measures to ensure these internal issues are not repeated. No one can change the past and it takes time to change an organizational culture."

Palmer declined any further comment, referring inquiries to the Kennebecasis Regional Joint Board of Police Commissioners.

Board chairman Matt Alexander has declined to comment, referring inquiries in turn to the New Brunswick Police Commission.

Steve Roberge, executive director of the provincial oversight body, has also declined to comment, saying the commission never confirms or denies an investigation is going on unless it reaches the arbitration stage.​  

Not 1st case of turmoil

The allegations against Porter and McIntyre are not the first cases of turmoil at the Kennebecasis police force involving women. McIntyre's predecessor, Tom Gladney, retired in 2000 after almost two years of being suspended with pay over vulgar sexual comments he made about a female provincial court judge.

Gladney made the degrading comments just three years after it came to light that he had been quietly reprimanded for sexual comments he made in 1992 about female dispatchers on his force. He called them "bitches" who "should have their breasts cut off and be made to eat them."