Kitchener-Waterloo

Police chief defends officers as sexual harassment lawsuit continues

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin has issued a statement defending members of the service and the organization as a multi-million dollar lawsuit alleging workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment continues in Ontario.

Officers are 'hard-working, dedicated and honorable people' says Larkin

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin has issued a statement defending members of the service and the organization in light of a multi-million dollar lawsuit alleging workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The class action lawsuit was filed in May, 2017. Const. Angelina Rivers, a current officer with Waterloo Regional Police, and Sharon Zehr, a former constable, launched the suit, which is seeking $167 million. The two say they suffered sexual assault, harassment and discrimination based on their gender while working for the police service. 

Three new affidavits were filed last week.

'Improving gender equity'

Chief Larkin said in a released statement the service has made "great strides toward improving gender equity and providing a workplace that is free from harassment," where all members of the service are treated with respect and dignity.

"We have promoted more female leaders into Senior Leadership positions than ever before, created a branch specifically designed to promote inclusion, equity and diversity, provided  forums where female members can share their experiences," said Larkin.

"And provided ongoing education and training relating to appropriate workplace conduct, harassment, discrimination and implicit bias."

The service has created what's called the 2018-2020 Operations Plan with the help of the Police Services Board to prevent systemic discrimination and educate members of the service about cultural diversity.

Chief Larkin said all allegations in the affidavits, where appropriate, have been referred to the Special Investigations Unit.


Read the statement

This is the complete statement provided to media by Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin.

"Waterloo Regional Police Service is committed to providing a work environment in which all members are treated with respect and dignity. Workplace harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated from any person in the workplace. As Chief, and as the leader of this organization, I feel the need to address the issues brought forward against me, and other members of this police service. Most importantly, I feel compelled to defend the hard-working, dedicated and honorable people who serve our community every day.

It has been a personal and professional goal of mine since being appointed as your Chief of Police, to continue to lead this organization with integrity and respect as my predecessors, Retired Chiefs Larry Gravill and Matt Torigian did. In recent years, we have made great strides toward improving gender equity and providing a workplace that is free from harassment. We have promoted more female leaders into Senior Leadership positions than ever before, created a branch specifically designed to promote inclusion, equity and diversity, provided  forums where female members can share their experiences, and provided ongoing education and training relating to appropriate workplace conduct, harassment, discrimination and implicit bias. Even more, our organization under the governance of the Police Services Board, has created our 2018-2020 Operations Plan which includes goals to enhance community trust and public confidence by preventing and addressing systemic discrimination and educating our members about cultural diversity.

We are committed to maintaining stability and serving our community in a professional manner as the unproven allegations involved in these proceedings continue to come forward, I would like to remind the community that the members of the Waterloo Regional Police Service are resilient and dedicated individuals who will continue to serve with pride and dignity.

In response to allegations contained in the affidavits, the oversight body, the Special Investigations Unit has a specific mandate;  to maintain confidence in Ontario's police services by assuring the public that police actions resulting in serious injury, death, or allegations of sexual assault are subjected to rigorous, independent investigations. Incidents which fall within this mandate must be reported to the SIU by the police service involved and/or may be reported by the complainant or any other person. All the allegations in the affidavits have been reviewed and, where appropriate, referrals have been made to the SIU.

I look forward and welcome an opportunity to respond to these claims in a full and complete manner and in the appropriate judicial process."

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