Calgary Police Commission rebukes members for speaking in public

The Calgary Police Commission is calling out some of its own for publicly debating the Calgary police workplace environment.

Controversy stems from damning 2013 report into police force's workplace environment

Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart has been vocal in her criticism of the Calgary Police Service's workplace environment. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The Calgary Police Commission is calling out some of its own for publicly debating the Calgary police workplace environment. 

The controversy stems from a damning 2013 workplace review that recently surfaced and the work being done to deal with complaints of a toxic environment. 

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, who sits on the police commission, has been vocal in her condemnation of the practices outlined in the report and her assertion that not enough has been done to resolve the situation. 

'Speaking out of turn'

In a release, the commission said it does not condone commissioners "speaking out of turn in public regarding this issue."

It said only the chair or delegated vice-chairs can officially speak on behalf of the commission.

"The Commission does not believe that it is appropriate to debate these issues, or critique the members or leadership of the CPS, outside of the regular public meetings of the Commission, where we can appropriately direct our questions to the Chief and engage the CPS in a proactive and constructive dialogue so that we can work to achieve our common goal of a diverse, inclusive and safe workplace," reads the statement.

Howie Shikaze, the chair of the commission, said the intention of the release was to remove any confusion regarding who speaks for the commission and its views on the matter at hand. 

'Unacceptable' practices

Colley-Urquhart told The Calgary Eyeopener on Oct. 27 that she has had dozens of meetings with female officers who alleged they were bullied and harassed within the ranks of the Calgary police but were too afraid to make a formal complaint.

"The issues and matters that this group of women have raised are absolutely unacceptable in today's human resource practices. This tarnishes the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and, as a result of that, it tarnishes the City of Calgary," she said.

Shikaze said the code of conduct previously barred commissioners from speaking their mind in public, but it now allows for free expression.

"I think the political members are going to do what's required of them to look after their constituents, and we know that, and we respect that," he said. 

"At one time, our policy really did not allow for independent views, and that was amended to allow for people to say, 'Well, we're speaking on our own behalf or in another capacity.' But we wanted the public to be crystal clear as to what the commission's voice was on these particular matters."

'Very pleased'

The police commission statement said its highest priority is "to oversee the reforms underway for CPS to create an inclusive workplace with fair opportunities that is free of intimidation and retaliation."

Shikaze said the commission is pleased with the progress being made on addressing the issues brought up in the 2013 report and will receive another progress report in November. 

"We will continue to examine and question the service. We are very pleased with the transparency and the accountability demonstrated by Chief Chaffin and his ability to address us directly and deal head on with the questions and issues at hand," he said. 

Shikaze said the commission does not have the ability to question individual members of the service on how changes to the workplace environment are progressing, but it is something they will be "studying and considering in view of our oversight process."