The CPA has heard from many members in relation to the negative effects that the blind application of the new tenure policy has had upon their careers, home lives, and over all well being. The hard-line taken by the CPS to push the implementation has carried an incredibly high price in relation to the human resource costs to our members, and makes no business sense in improving efficiencies for the Service. In fact, it has placed even higher demands upon a shrinking police budget. The CPA made a presentation at a joint board meeting with the CPS executive and the Calgary Police Commission.
The following is the presentation:
Hello everyone. There are lots of familiar faces here, but for those that don’t know me, I’m the Association President, Les Kaminski. A little bit about me; I’ve recently started my 31st year as a police officer, working on the street for 29 of those years. Roger and I are both from class #102. Prior to taking this position, I was the sergeant of the Gang Suppression Team, a unit that was initiated in response to a problem of gang violence. I will give you a perspective of policing from a street cops point of view. During my campaign to become the President, I visited 131 parades. This has never been done by any other CPA president, or police chief. Because I am one of them, I got the honest, unadulterated opinions from roughly 1400 members. You will get my perspective as a street cop, and I will be the voice for the members that work at the pointy end of the Service. This includes patrol, specialties, and investigators.
We are in the midst of a crime wave. In the Chief’s own words, it’s chaos out there. He has clearly identified the problems which afflict the city. The drastic downturn in our economy has been devastating. The opioid epidemic, specifically fentanyl, is driving crime rates upwards, particularly break-ins and car thefts. These addicts will acquire their next fix, at any cost. They have no regard for the lives of our citizens, or the police officers that deal with them. Their actions are becoming more wanton and reckless. The Chief has defined the problem very well.
The solution has been to get more boots onto the street, into patrol. The chief brought back an old policy which mandated 5 years minimum in patrol. This was enthusiastically supported by all members. The next step was to institute hard and fast tenure rules, and then certain units were collapsed. We don’t believe patrol has benefitted, and it’s crippled our ability to reduce crime, and produced paralyzing inefficiencies elsewhere in the Service.
Let me explain what tenure is. It is an arbitrary process imposed by management that limits an officer’s time in a specialized area. Every single one of those officers has done a significant amount of time on the street. They have developed skills which allow them to transfer into areas where they further develop their expertise which allows them to be exceptional in these areas.
For example, it takes years to become an expert police explosives technician.
It takes years to become an expert in forensic crime scene analysis.
It takes years to become an expert in traffic accident reconstruction.
It takes years to become an expert interrogator to work in homicide, or sex crimes, or domestic conflict, or child abuse.
It takes years to learn the skills to become a school resource officer which impacts the lives of struggling kids every day, giving them the opportunity to build successful lives.
It takes years to develop credibility which allows diversity relations officers to build trust with diverse communities, who often have little trust in the police caused from their previous experiences before coming to Canada.
All of these areas of expertise make us a better police service. These officers are not pegs in holes. They are difficult to replace. And the bottom line is that the tenure policy has not added numbers to patrol. The front line has gotten little relief and we’ve lost people in critical areas which has crippled our ability to reduce crime.
For example, look at the tactical unit. Tenure was applied when they were already 4 members short. The senior member affected was abruptly transferred. Disillusioned and demoralized, he found other work and left the CPS altogether. He was a fully trained, expert sniper, a skill which takes years of experience and practice. Nonetheless, the next senior member was informed he’d be tenured out within the year. Devastated, he found another job and promptly quit the CPS as well. He was a fully qualified Police Explosives Technician. The Service lost two fully trained, seasoned tactical officers, with 100’s of thousands of dollars invested into their training. The irony is that this created 6 vacancies, and only 4 were filled, and those 4 came from patrol. It takes 6 months to complete basic training.
Another example is the Canine unit. So short staffed, they could only deploy 1 member for day-shift, and 2 at night, for a city with a population of 1.2 million. This is not operationally sound and incredibly dangerous. Regardless, the experienced members are being tenured out, and being replaced with officers from patrol. Again, the result is no net gain for patrol. It takes a minimum of 6 months for a new member to become certified, to just begin doing calls, and it takes years to become highly proficient.
Another example is the strike force unit. This elite surveillance unit is an entire team short and the remaining teams are also 1 or 2 members down. In an effort to keep up to call load, they work incredible amounts of overtime, which makes doing effective surveillance increasingly difficult and dangerous. Regardless, the senior members will be tenured out, and new members will be trained internally. In the meantime, the need for surveillance grows. Strike is used to gather intelligence and evidence in high stakes investigations, such as murders. The staffing issues in Strike are having a profound effect on peripheral units. A veteran homicide investigator has requested that Strike assist on a very solvable file. He has been turned down for the past 4 months. Regardless, the senior members are waiting to be tenured out.
The theory behind the implementation of tenure was to get more bodies into patrol. This goal is clearly not being met. A secondary reason was to open spots in specialty units. Its obvious that natural attrition rates are allowing for more than enough opportunities to get into these spots. The real issue lies with the commanders of these units. They should be providing viable succession plans as needed. Tenure is not a substitute for strong leadership. Staffing issues should be based upon the specific needs of the unit and its members. It’s been proven on two previous occasions that strict tenure policies will fail because it devastates the Service and its members.
I have the highest respect for our first responders. It’s where every police officer starts, and it’s incredibly demanding. Our patrol officers feel overwhelmed. They are dealing with an ever-increasing workload and are being scrutinized more and more closely due to a growing anti-police sentiment. To react by simply increasing the resources to respond to an ever-increasing call load hasn’t worked. Besides, the members on the street aren’t seeing more bodies.
A Service priority is car thefts. In 2007 Calgary experienced 7773 car thefts. In 2008, 7260. To combat the problem, the High Enforcement Auto Theft or HEAT team was formed. The members of this unit were trained in surveillance techniques and intervention tactics specifically designed to lower the risk in dealing with these situations. They concentrated on the most prolific car thieves who were responsible for an estimated 85% of car thefts. HEAT became operational in 2009 and car thefts were reduced to 5174. By 2011, they were down to a low of 4216. Then, in 2015, the unit was disbanded, and car thefts rose to 7935 that year. Currently, there are limited resources dedicated to lowering these numbers.
The Service aims to reduce the number of incidents of officers shooting at vehicles. To accomplish this, a new policy is being introduced which prohibits officers from shooting at moving vehicles. This will not address the root of the issue. Reducing the number of vehicles being stolen and then used in an attempt to wound or kill our members does. If the number of patrol officers goes up and the number of stolen vehicles remains the same, we will find more stolen vehicles and be forced to intervene more often. It’s a sure bet that these criminals will continue to try and escape. The result will be more incidents where the only choice will be to use deadly force to stop deadly threats. We want resources put back into lowering these numbers, and teams that can safely deal with these situations.
We also fear that this policy may lead to a tragedy. Our members can’t hesitate when faced with a life or death decision for fear of breaching a policy. This blanket policy mitigates liability for the chief, but leaves our members holding the bag. Inevitably, our officers will mitigate their risk by avoiding contact with any vehicles which could potentially result in them having to take action. This will allow these dangerous criminals to continue operating these stolen vehicles with immunity, which places our citizens into danger. We want to deal with the root of the problem; lowering the number of vehicle thefts.
My final thought focuses upon the spotlight which has been placed upon our so called toxic workplace. We are under the microscope and it’s undeniable that we have some very unhappy police officers. What I know to be true, from speaking with 1400 members, is that this tenure implementation has been a major contributing factor to the demoralization of the members. Its a leading reason for the high levels of dissatisfaction reflected in the recent surveys. It has created an environment which perpetuates the feeling of self-preservation. It’s every man and woman for themselves.
The members are in survival mode. Specifically, the blind application of tenure upon our female members ignores all other factors, including the number one concern with them, which is child care issues. The policy has wreaked havoc on their careers, personal lives, and home lives. This has precipitated a huge backlash from them. The Commission has made it clear that gender based issues need attention. The 7-point plan clearly states that an emphasis must be made to address discrimination, particularly in relation to family responsibilities. The implementation of the tenure policy, without regard to other circumstances, has caused untold hardships for our female members. Its safe to say that this manifests itself in our female membership feeling unappreciated, ignored, and disrespected.
The perception of a toxic environment will remain for as long as the human resources issues that this policy has created are ignored. Undoubtedly, there are other problems which negatively affect our workplace, but this is the single greatest source of stress and anxiety affecting our members, both female and male. Many members are dealing with it by booking off on stress or sick leave, while others have quit or are looking for the next best opportunity to do so. Hard and fast tenure guidelines don’t consider the human factors.
The latest internal survey had the highest response in CPS history. The chief believes it’s because he has encouraged members to speak up. The reality is it was an act of desperate police officers looking for a voice, for a means to communicate that what is being implemented is not working. That they are demoralized, frustrated, and exhausted and need the executive to stop, listen to them, and trust what they’re telling you.
Kelly Sundberg, a criminologist at Mount Royal University is quoted in an article from the Calgary Herald in 2015 saying:
“When you have a police service with high morale and esprit de corps,
you can do better and do more with limited resources.”
I want to discuss tangible solutions to these issues at regular intervals in meetings with the Police Commission and the Executive. We want to find solutions and we can help you do this provided we have a voice and you are interested in listening. The Calgary Police Association is deeply committed to protecting the citizens of Calgary, while keeping our members safe. We believe the Commission and the CPS have the same goals.