Calgary Police Commission presses Chief Roger Chaffin for third-party advocate timeline

Calgary Police Commission chair Brian Thiessen says finding a third-party, independent advocate to assist CPS members experiencing unwanted behaviour is the commission's top priority.

Chair Brian Thiessen says he wants timeline for filling the position in place by March

Chief Roger Chaffin speaks at the Calgary Police Commission meeting Tuesday. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Members of the Calgary Police Commission pressed Chief Roger Chaffin to commit to a timeline Tuesday to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

One of the commission's top priorities is finding a third-party, independent advocate to assist CPS members experiencing unwanted behaviour.

"We want to see movement," said commission chair Brian Thiessen. "You heard that from a number of the commissioners, that we'd like to see a real plan, in March, for when we're going to see an independent person put in that role."

But Chaffin says that timeline likely won't be possible, and in the interim, the city's whistleblower program will be made available to CPS officers and civilian employees who feel they are being treated unfairly.

"Because it has no ties to me, I don't have any investment in it," he said. "It has an audit trail that is independent of me and it's completely anonymous to the caller. They don't have to worry about who they talk to, then we can start the process from there."

Calgary Police Commission chair Brian Thiessen says they would like to see a timeline for finding a third-party advocate in March. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Meetings need to be held and agreements made with the Calgary Police Association — the union representing CPS members — before the third-party advocate can be brought in, says Chaffin.

"Is this going to be someone who just takes the complaints or actually investigates the complaints? We need to hear that out with them a little bit," he said. "Because they do have a significant duty of representation to their own membership, we want to make sure we're not stepping through that or offending that in some way."

Change takes time, says Chaffin.

"How culture changes in an organization is not measured in days," he said.

"This is going to be weeks and months and in some cases, it will be some years of work. We're still dealing with the clash of a traditional paramilitary organization that's moving into a much more evolved workplace and there are some clashes of values there that take some time to fully move through. But each week that goes by we are achieving significant milestones."

Workplace review done in 2013

In October 2016, a workplace review done in 2013 was made public. The review revealed a culture of bullying, harassment, intimidation and retaliation within the CPS.

In February, 13 CPS members came forward to say they are filing legal complaints. One complainant is Jen Magnus, a 14-year member of the force who tearfully offered her resignation at the police commission meeting in January, saying she had endured continued bullying and sexual harassment, and feared retribution and retaliation for speaking out.

At the time, Chaffin said he could not accept her resignation under those circumstances.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart then stepped down from the commission abruptly days later, after she was rebuked by the board for speaking out publicly about the issues. 

Chaffin says responsibility for the necessary cultural change within CPS ultimately falls to him.

"I didn't take on this role not to be held accountable," he said. "Accountabilities don't start and end at the front line, they flow through me."

With files from Colleen Underwood and Monty Kruger