Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin says he prioritizes accountability over popularity
28 charges laid against 7 past and present CPS employees in 3 months
After years of a police service that "drifted" away from holding its officers accountable for bad behaviour, Calgary's police chief says he's in the middle of a deliberate culture shift.
In the last three months, 28 criminal and bylaw charges were laid against seven CPS members — past and present.
Nine months into his leadership, Chief Roger Chaffin says accountability and transparency are two of his top priorities for the service.
"Losing sight of that or having that drift — and it has drifted — causes much more problems," said Chaffin in a sit down interview with CBC News.
"I think in the chief's job, you should be more popular for your leadership and the rigour that you're held to supporting people and making sure we're doing a good job."
Last month, following a lengthy investigation, a number of criminal charges including corruption, bribery, harassment and breach of trust were laid against two current and two former CPS employees.
"Without some rigour to our accountability to the public ... you tend to have these things happen," said Chaffin. "Where a small transgression around something like data integrity, data breaches becomes a corruption issue very quickly."
In mid-April, an officer — who has not been named by CPS in order to protect his alleged victim — was charged with a domestic break-and-enter on his estranged wife's home.
In early June, Robert Cumming, 43, was charged with breach of trust, theft under $5,000 and possession of a controlled substance. It's alleged that Cumming stole marijuana he was supposed to have seized during an investigation.
On June 16, one of CPS's dog handlers — who also faces an internal police investigation — was charged with four bylaw infractions after his service dog bit and injured a 12-year-old boy in March.
There are officers though, who have not been held to account — yet.
Though he was on desk duty at the time, Cst. Stephen Baker's police-issued rifle was stolen from his personal vehicle parked outside a bar just over a year ago. It was recovered about two weeks later.
CPS's professional standards unit announced in January that Baker would not face charges, though he will still be subject to an internal disciplinary hearing.
'I don't want accountability ever to sound like punishment'
The chief says accountability needs to be better understood.
"Often it's seen as someone walking around and killing every fly with a sledge hammer," said Chaffin. "I don't want accountability ever to sound like punishment."
"Accountability is a myriad of things where at the end of that spectrum there could be punishment."
Chaffin points out there is a difference between those who make mistakes and members whose conduct is intentionally illegal or unethical.
"One thing about policing ... you make decisions in split seconds and sometimes they don't go well; I can support that because it's tough job."
Though the chief does have a message for those on the more malicious side of the spectrum.
"I'm not going to have a lot of time and comfort for what they're doing and I'm going to deal with them fairly significantly."
Aside from public perception, Chaffin says the cultural shift is also important for organizational confidence.
"Many of our members would say the same thing that you would say; 'When are we going to hold some of these people accountable? Why don't we actually do something about these people?'"
Though that may be true, the world of policing can also been seen as a so-called brotherhood where members blindly back each other no matter the circumstances. Chaffin acknowledges the mentality, though he says he doesn't see a problem.
"You go out there, [in] often very negative circumstances," said Chaffin.
"You develop that camaraderie around the challenges of your job, the risks that you take, the heat that you feel from people so you develop a closeness, a bond around the issues."
Chaffin says he understands a concern among members of a harsh leadership style but believes in the end, confidence among the public and CPS members will be bolstered by his approach.
"Ignoring that and not having accountability and trying to duck and weave for fear of the perception that we're being heavy handed tends to, long-term, set people up for failure," said Chaffin.
"There should never be mortgaging accountability for popularity."