Calgary police unveil plans to tackle bullying and harassment amidst continued controversy

Controversy continues to swirl around the working environment at the Calgary Police Service even after the force announced next steps to deal with allegations of harassment and abuse.

Jen Magnus, who made formal complaint in February, says she wants action, not talk

Chief Roger Chaffin speaks to Jennifer Magnus after she resigned at a Calgary Police Commission meeting in February. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Controversy continues to swirl around the working environment at the Calgary Police Service even after the force announced next steps to deal with allegations of harassment and abuse.

At the Calgary Police Commission meeting Monday, the force outlined steps it's taking, including an employee census, overcoming gender discrimination, establishing an independent advocate and whistle-blowing program and reviewing its hiring and promotion policies and practices. 

Improving the way it deals with parental and maternity leave and how that affects the ability of officers to move up the ranks is another key feature.

'A change in the upper management'

"It sounds nice on paper, but I want to see action," said Jen Magnus, one of 13 officers who brought formal complaints against the CPS for bullying and harassment. Magnus made headlines in February when she publicly resigned at another commission meeting. 

She said the culture at the CPS is so entrenched, high-level changes might be needed. 

"Maybe there needs to a change in the upper management, because for so long we've been promoting the same people with the same ideals and they've been following the same culture," said Magnus. 

"It needs to be an absolute change in the culture of the Calgary Police Service and maybe that means that we need to start looking at taking out some of those head people."

'Remarks like that are unproductive'

Magnus was convinced to stay on after her public resignation, but submitted her formal resignation last week. 

"I can't go back right now because I do not feel safe. I do not feel that things have changed. I do not feel that it's a safe environment right now because they are not acknowledging that bullying and harassment is an issue within the service," she said, referencing what she says was a statement by CPS lawyers denying her allegations. 

Chief Roger Chaffin bristled at her comments. 

"Remarks like that are unproductive," he said. "Our service, as you saw today, is exhausting every effort we can to respect the need to have a respectful workplace."

Chaffin said CPS lawyers are working closely with him on his overhaul of the HR system.

"There is a process going through here where we do work between counsels, and sometimes that means it's slow and sometimes it's purposeful," he said. "I won't support those comments."

Changes in May

Chaffin said he's stuck between the need to be transparent to the public and the requirement to protect employee privacy when it comes to internal HR issues and that some people accused of inappropriate behaviour are being vilified without being able to respond. 

Many of the changes outlined by the service will come into effect in May, with others kicking in this summer. One of which is a move to place people with HR training in HR positions, as CPS's HR department is currently staffed by officers, not HR professionals. 

"Those are tight timelines, I can tell you I work with employers everyday, the service is setting aggressive timelines for themselves," said Calgary Police Commission chair Brian Thiessen. 

Chaffin said he's keenly aware there will be missteps and mistakes while the force attempts to make changes but said he's confident change will happen. 

With files from Stephanie Wiebe