13 Calgary police members file bullying complaints urging cultural, leadership changes

More than a dozen members of the Calgary Police Service have teamed up to file bullying and harassment complaints — with the police chief later saying he welcomes the details as a "positive development" that will help the force move forward.

Chief says this is a good opportunity to see what needs to be fixed

Jen Magnus and 12 other members are in the process of filing formal complaints with the Calgary Police Service over issues of harassment and bullying. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

More than a dozen members of the Calgary Police Service have teamed up to file bullying and harassment complaints, urging significant changes to the culture and leadership structure of the force, one of the complainants says. 

The 13 members announced Tuesday that complaints are being filed through a legal team.

One of the complainants is Jen Magnus, a member of the force for 14 years who offered her resignation at a public Calgary Police Commission meeting in January to try to draw attention to the issues.

She said at the time that she had endured continued bullying and sexual harassment, and feared retribution and retaliation for speaking out.

"I hope this brings on a cultural change," Magnus told The Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

"It is necessary. I know that this exists in a lot of police organizations and military organizations and it is time for change to happen."

"I believe every employee in Canada has a right to a safe and respectful workplace and the Calgary police should be no different," Magnus said.

"In order for that to happen, I think they need to acknowledge that changes need to come in the way of the culture and the way the leadership handles things. They need to start holding people accountable."

'Employers have obligations,' lawyer says

A lawyer involved with the complaints says that sometimes workplace issues become legal in nature.

"Employers have obligations and employees have rights and entitlements," Rachel West said.

"Sometimes they need lawyers involved, either in the background or the foreground, to assist them in protecting those rights, obtaining those entitlements and protecting their interests within the workforce or, if they chose to leave the workforce, in order to affect change from the outside."

Calgary police chief addresses 13 complaints

6 years ago
Duration 11:55
Bullying, harassment among complaints filed through legal team

Chief says he welcomes the complaints

Chief Roger Chaffin welcomed the complaints.

"I think this is the first, big, really positive development we have had on this story," Chaffin told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

"This is a really good opportunity for us to see specifically what the issues are ... without it, it's hard to move forward on some of these things."

He says the police have been working for years on improving these types of issues.

"We have taken a number of steps already," he said.

Chaffin said the Alberta Police Act is not helpful in some ways because it was written decades ago and could not have foreseen some of the complex human resources issues that a workplace deals with today.

The next step is to agree upon a third-party auditor or investigator, and the scope of an investigation, Chaffin explained.

He stressed that CPS members can go to him directly, adding that since he first said so publicly months earlier, some members have taken him up on the offer.

"It doesn't help us when things are hidden," he said. "We are getting more people come forward."

Police association board of directors responds

In a statement, the Calgary Police Association Board of Directors said it could not comment on specific cases but endeavours to provide representation to any member who asks for help.

"The Association represents members who ask for advocacy, and do not discourage complaints which fall under this mandate. We take our role very seriously in protecting all members, and are working hard to ensure a safer, healthier work environment for its members," read the statement.

Damning 2013 workplace review

In October 2016, a damning 2013 workplace review surfaced showing a culture of bullying, harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

At the time Chaffin acknowledged that old attitudes and old police culture are likely still lingering when it comes to female officers, and need addressing.

When Magnus tendered her resignation publicly in January, Chaffin refused to accept it at the meeting and asked her to take some time to reflect. Mayor Naheed Nenshi also urged her not resign.

Last week, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart resigned from the Calgary Police Commission, a day after the commission chair said she may have violated its code of conduct by speaking publicly about the complaints.

Magnus, meanwhile, says her future with Calgary police is still unclear.

"I feel like I am giving up, but for my mental health and my family it is something I have to do."

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener