Calgary

Police commission to ask 'tough questions' of CPS leadership after HR head quits

The chair of the Calgary Police Commission said he's disappointed but not surprised by allegations raised by the former head of HR with the Calgary Police Service.

CHRO resigned after months on the job after facing pushback

Calgary Police Commission chair Brian Thiessen said he'll have tough questions to ask the Calgary Police Service after allegations raised by the former head of HR. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The chair of the Calgary Police Commission said he's disappointed but not surprised by allegations raised by the former head of HR with the Calgary Police Service.

Sheila Ball said dictatorship-style leadership, and pushback when she attempted to reform what she described as HR policy that was decades behind the industry, lead to her resignation as Chief Human Resources Officer after just months on the job.

"I'm extremely disappointed to hear that," said chair Brian Thiessen. "Are we completely surprised that things weren't moving forward as fast or as well as we were hearing? No."

The chief of CPS answers to the commission, which is intended to provide civilian oversight of the police service's governance.

Police 'answer to Calgarians'

"[The police] answer to Calgarians, really … therefore the commission will have some tough questions to ask of the service and we intend to do that," he said.

Ball was hired to help implement HR reforms that were meant to tackle claims of bullying, harassment and gender discrimination within the service. 

She said she found that the demands of the job were taking a toll on CPS officers, and they didn't feel heard or supported.

Yet, when she questioned superiors about decisions, she was laughed at or met with silence, and even excluded from HR meetings.

Thiessen said Ball didn't report to the commission that she was running into obstacles.

Ball said CPS contacted her about a month after she left to offer her an exit interview, which she intends to do.

"We certainly do care about what she has to say from the commission's point of view, we have to give the service the first opportunity to speak to their senior employee," he said.

"Given what I've heard today, I think it may also be warranted for the commission to hear directly from Ms. Ball."

CPS committed to HR reforms

Calgary police said in a statement that they have begun the process to hire a new CHRO and that they're looking into Ball's comments.

"We take these comments very seriously and will continue to work with her as we try to gain a full understanding of the issues referenced," the emailed statement read.

"We are 100 per cent committed to moving forward with the HR reforms and have already started the process to recruit a replacement CHRO. Our goal to ensure we have a safe and respectful workplace throughout the organization for every employee."

As well as a new CHRO, the service is looking for a new chief after Roger Chaffin announced he would be resigning in January.

Ball said she believes all of senior management needs to leave for change to happen, and that simply replacing the former chief with a deputy chief won't help.

Thiessen said they're looking for candidates across the country, but they're not ruling out someone from inside the service.

"Keep in mind there's a number of layers of officers with the Calgary police service," he said.

"Obviously there are others within the organization that have the capability to lead."

'Unacceptable' lack of support

Coun. Ward Sutherland said he'd like to know how CPS will prevent something like this from happening in future.

"When the new person comes in, how are they going to be supported?" he asked. "It's obvious the support wasn't there before and that's unacceptable."

With files from Colleen Underwood, CBC Calgary News at 6

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