Calgary police officer's public resignation renews questions about harassment, intimidation on force

The public and emotional resignation of a Calgary police officer is again raising questions about how the force deals with complaints of bullying and harassment.

Jen Magnus says force has entrenched reflex to say nothing, ignore victims

Jen Magnus tearfully resigned from the Calgary Police Service at Tuesday's commission meeting. The officer says she has been bullied and sexually harassed. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The public and emotional resignation of a Calgary police officer is again raising questions about how the force deals with complaints of bullying and harassment.

Jen Magnus fought back tears at a Calgary police commission meeting Tuesday night as she explained her decision to resign.

Calgary Police Service Chief Roger Chaffin told reporters he would prefer to not accept the 14-year veteran's resignation until she has had more time to reflect.

But former detective Marlene Hope said it's unlikely Magnus will change her mind.

'I have been bullied, sexually harassed, degraded and chastised,' says Calgary cop at public resignation

6 years ago
Duration 0:46
Saying she has endured continued bullying and sexual harassment and now fears retribution and retaliation, a 14-year Calgary police officer resigned publicly and tearfully at Tuesday's Calgary Police Commission meeting.

"It was a decision that she has spent a lot of time wrestling with," Hope said.

Hope and Magnus were part of a group of female officers who had been meeting about workplace issues in recent months. Magnus alleges she has been bullied, sexually harassed and intimidated. 

The group went public with its complaints last October after meeting with Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, who sits on the police commission.

As she announced her resignation Tuesday, Magnus told the commission she was one of two officers who brought forward a complaint that resulted in former chief Rick Hanson launching a human resources audit on the Calgary force's culture in 2013.

That 29-page report surfaced in 2016. It found evidence of a culture of bullying, harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

"Some of the women interviewed reported that over their career they had … '1,000 stab wounds' from workplace interactions," the review notes.

Magnus said that when it became clear to her the results of that report were not going to be disclosed publicly, she filed a freedom of information request for the documents, hoping to release them herself.     

She said emails she obtained suggested some members of the police executive had branded her a "chain jumper."

Magnus told the commission it was hurtful that police leaders failed to speak up when she and her fellow complainants were "attacked" in the media by other members of the force.

"To say nothing is an informal way of ignoring the problem and the victims within," she said. 

'Blood and sweat' going into reforms

Police commission chair Brian Thiessen said the force is making improvements.

"I think what they have to be doing is sensing the urgency of the need for change," he said.

"Calgary Police Service has spent significant time, effort and energy — they're putting a lot of blood and sweat into changing their practices. It's years and years of employment culture that they're trying to change quickly." 

Colley-Urquhart said she told Magnus that she is sorry reforms haven't happened sooner.

"I took a seven-point plan forward to the commission … and Mr. Thiessen was very supportive of this plan. And we had it endorsed, actually, unanimously," she said.