Calgary

Lethbridge police chief admits to toxic workplace but blames disgruntled officers airing 'personal grievances'

While under investigation for alleged bullying and harassment, Lethbridge's police chief has issued a statement critical of those who have spoken out against the "brokenness" of the service. 

Chief Scott Woods publicly criticized anonymous complainers who speak with media

Lethbridge Police Chief Scott Woods says there is a 'brokenness' within the service but called out disgruntled officers whom he accused of airing 'personal grievances.' (Lethbridge Police Service/Facebook)

While under investigation for alleged bullying and harassment, Lethbridge's police chief has issued a statement critical of those who have spoken out against the "brokenness" of the service. 

On Tuesday, Chief Scott Woods admitted to a "toxicity" within the Lethbridge Police Service but called out disgruntled officers whom he accused of "protecting their own interests" by airing "personal grievances."

While it's not unusual for a member of a police force's brass to be the subject of a complaint, it is rare for a chief to speak publicly about it. 

Last month, the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board ordered the Lethbridge Police Commission to take another look at a harassment and bullying complaint made by Sgt. J. Moulton against Woods.

The LERB had previously found it didn't have the jurisdiction to look into the complaint. 

'A brokenness within the service'

The chief's comments on Tuesday appear to be in response to a report by a Lethbridge media outlet, Bridge City News, that cited an anonymous former Lethbridge officer who seemed to substantiate some of the concerns made by Moulton.

The anonymous former officer called the service "broken" and said he left because of "bullying and harassment by the administration."

Woods says he's tried to address the toxicity and admits "there is a brokenness within the service" but says a lot of the dysfunction comes from a small group within the police force who are primarily concerned with protecting their own interests.

"When this small group of individuals is held to account for their own misconduct, or perhaps denied a workplace request, they often lash out and accuse others of being bullies," wrote Woods. 

History of the complaints

In 2019, Moulton filed three complaints — breach of trust, harassment and bullying — with the Lethbridge Police Commission against Woods, who was a deputy chief at that time.

The breach of trust complaints were dismissed by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which found there was no reasonable suspicion to believe an offence had been committed. 

The Police Act still required further, internal disciplinary review, so the file has since been sent to an outside police service to investigate.  

The bullying and harassment complaints alleged "tyrannical and bullying behaviour over the course of nearly a year," according to the LERB decision posted online last month.

Chief accused of 'isolating and demeaning' behaviour

"[Moulton] stated that the behaviour included isolating and demeaning him, as well as sustained attacks on his career," reads the decision. 

"He stated the behaviour appeared to be retaliatory after he had confronted [Woods] about a serious issue, which resulted in his aforementioned breach of trust complaints to the respondent."

Woods took over as chief on Aug. 28, 2019. 

In November, the complaint was dismissed by the commission, which found it did not have jurisdiction to investigate. 

"If the [commission] does not have jurisdiction over the complaint about the officer, then who does?" wrote the LERB in its decision to send the matter back to the Lethbridge Police Commission. 

Woods says he felt the need to comment on recent media coverage because the manner and tone "casts aspersions not just on me … but on the vast majority of the people who serve the City of Lethbridge as a part of the police service."

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.

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