Calgary police put search for new HR head on hold, pending internal review

Calgary police has put its search for a new chief human resources officer on hold, pending an internal review.

Police commission to meet with service members to hear morale concerns directly

Calgary Police Commission chair Brian Thiessen heard from CPS Tuesday that the service plans to investigate the departure of its chief human resources officer before hiring her replacement. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Calgary police has put its search for a new chief human resources officer on hold, pending an internal review.

Sheila Ball told CBC News earlier this month that 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 CHRO after just months on the job.

The police commission heard from the service Tuesday that it plans to investigate her departure and study how they can improve and provide a welcome environment for the next CHRO before hiring her replacement.

"If the next CHRO fails it is a failure of the service, not of the CHRO," said commission chair Brian Thiessen. 

"If you talk to the CPS members they're frustrated, the commission is disappointed."

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

Thiessen said he's cautiously optimistic that Ball's departure can be treated as a learning opportunity.

"We want the CHRO to succeed, we want to learn from them so we can have best practices and move into the 21st century."

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

Some front-line officers have described their work culture as demoralizing,  saying they've been ignored by both executive officers and their own union.

A few officers have instituted a wristband campaign, called Code 200 — the CPS code for an officer in trouble — to raise attention for their plight.

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

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

Thiessen said commissioners plan to visit each district office to meet with service members and hear their concerns directly, talk about expectations in the search for a new chief and priorities on morale issues.

"As a commission, maybe we have to ask more difficult questions about, 'What barriers you're running into? What are your obstacles?" he said.

With files from Colleen Underwood.


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