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CPA Address to Police Commission

November 26, 2017

 

CPA President Les Kaminski presented the following address at our most recent meeting with the Police Commission and the CPA Executive: 

 

 

ADDRESS TO THE CALGARY POLICE COMMISSION
AND THE CALGARY POLICE SERVICE

 

from

 

LES KAMINSKI - CALGARY POLICE ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT

 

 

The Calgary Police Association is dedicated to protecting the citizens of Calgary, while keeping our members safe. The Board of Directors and I have a deep commitment to the members of the Association, who voted for us to represent them. We are here on their behalf. There are issues that we need you, the Commission, to understand, and the profound effect these issues are having upon them.

 

We know that when we work together, we can create solutions to make the Service better. We are the direct conduit to the membership. They give us the honest, unadulterated versions of the issues, as they see them. We can ensure you’ll know the pressing issues, and we can offer solutions to these problems. We simply ask to be taken seriously as an important stakeholder at a critical time for CPS. Up until now, we feel we have been ignored.  We understand and can explain much about the turmoil which surrounds the CPS right now. The Executive has lost the trust of the members and they can’t understand why. I believe we can provide those answers.

 

A successful Policing organization is built on trust. It’s the foundation. Right now, there is no trust of the executive, and our whole organization collapses. The members are telling you in your surveys. They’re saying it’s broken, their morale is at an all-time low, but nothing changes. The members question; where is the Commission’s over-sight?  You get fewer responses with each survey because they don’t believe it will make a difference.  

 

Now the executive has proposed another survey. Maybe they have good intentions, but my phone has been ringing non-stop, and this is what members are saying… Two CPC surveys… 900 CPS employees engage with Iquibald… 50 one-on-ones with Stuart Carver, all within the year. The results of the LAST survey haven't even been shared yet, but here comes another one. Exec says action must be taken, so they hire another consultant to figure out what action. But this time only 70 pre-selected members. Who are they? Where do they work? What areas do they represent? Who selected them? Why were they selected? They disbelieve the promise of anonymity. They believe there will be repercussions if they answer candidly, or if they refuse to participate, so this is simply institutional bullying. They see this as either a witch-hunt, a way to get results which fit their needs, or smoke and mirrors to appease the Commission and show that they are taking action.

 

To advance a survey of this type, trust must exist between the executive and the members. Right now, it doesn’t. But, the CPA is your greatest resource. We are the pipeline to the membership, and they trust us. If you really want the answers, if you REALLY want to get to the root cause of why members feel the way they do, talk to us. If you’d prefer, the CPA will gladly take a survey. We will get excellent participation. And then we will be very happy to share the results with you if that’s what it takes to make you believe.

 

Morale is a derivative of trust, and morale is at its lowest point ever. This comes as a result of many factors, some very obvious and fixable. One of the predominant issues is that members feel unsupported and abandoned in the messaging coming from the Service.

 

There are many examples, one being the messaging that occurred recently when a member was charged for pointing a firearm during a vehicle stop. The press release, and media scrum presented only a few facts, the prevalent one being that the offender gave this member the finger. This single factor was misrepresented, and the ensuing message was inaccurate. The result was that the motivation of the officer was unfairly and detrimentally portrayed. By chance, I had a conversation I with a neighbor the next day. He stated, “that policeman must be in big trouble for pointing his gun at that guy for giving him the finger”. That was what the public heard from the Service, and this message has a profound impact on them, destroying their confidence in us. The shame is that an accurate depiction was never offered. The Chief promised neutrality in messaging. This was anything but neutral.

 

Let’s be crystal clear; criminal behavior isn’t tolerated by ANY members. However, the Service’s current messaging to the media has this community convinced that this is a corrupt organization. 4 years ago, this Service had the highest morale of any major police service in Canada. That is NOT the sign of a corrupt organization. This distorted messaging is destroying public confidence in their police, and making our jobs impossible to do. We cannot effectively police this community without the trust of our citizens. If the Service won’t, is it not the Commission’s duty to explain the integrity of this organization in a way that gives the community confidence in us again? Our reputation is being destroyed, from within. We are asking you, the Commission, to change this before the damage is irreparable.

 

Investigators and front-line officers feel that they are the only ones with any skin in the game.  Not long ago, effective policing included staying engaged, driving back alleys at 3:00 AM, checking the occupants of a suspicious auto, doing traffic stops, interviewing suspects and witnesses, and the list goes on. Now, every action is meticulously dissected with the luxury of hindsight. We must now be perfect, no mistakes, ever. When there is even a hint of doubt, that officer faces internal discipline or even criminal charges. The messaging from the Service that follows does not support the proactive efforts of police officers, and this fact permeates throughout the membership. This encourages a firefighter mentality. Officers will only answer calls for service. Where once they were out proactively and enthusiastically digging to keep the community safe, they now must take an approach which minimizes the likelihood of personal risk. The members retreat into a self-preservation mode, which is directly attributable to a lack of support from executive. When members feel unsupported, they steer clear of situations which may find them facing harsh criticism and stiff penalty. And FIDO gains momentum.

 

As mentioned, the members feel that their every move is meticulously scrutinized. The application of discipline, with direction from the Ethics and Accountability Division is being run unfairly, unbendingly, and with impunity. No longer assumed to be acting in good faith, they feel the Service now assumes they have committed an offence. Members are facing charges and hearings in matters which should be addressed by strong leaders, making sound decisions. Instead, members face stiff penalties, or pitted against one another at internal hearings. This corrosive environment fuels the negative morale, and deepens the split between the executive and the members. This approach simply adds to a toxic workplace, which the Chief has promised to reform.

 

In one of many examples, a constable was charged internally for allegedly being intoxicated and getting into a physical altercation at a licensed premise while off duty. To put this into perspective, no criminal charges were laid, there were no victims, no injuries, and no civilians lodged a complaint with the Service.  Nonetheless, a Service investigation was ordered, and a full 9-day trial ensued. This incident should have been resolved through mediation, by a strong leader sending a powerful, immediate message. This would have deterred similar behavior and mitigated any peripheral damage. Instead, the hammer is dropped. To pile on even more, another constable who was there, but not directly involved, received a 3-year official warning for having a bad attitude. This spread throughout the membership like wildfire. It’s viewed as excessive and divisive and obviously has a very detrimental effect upon morale. The direction from his legal counsel to apply strict, inflexible and punitive applications of discipline is one of the major reasons confidence in the Chief is undermined.

 

As you all know, another one of the hurdles the Service faces is dealing with bullying and discrimination within the workplace, especially for our female members. The Chief stated in the media that he is frustrated with the pace of the HR reforms. The Association has represented several of our female members in these matters this year. We suggested suitable and reasonable ways to solve these issues, but have been turned down in nearly every instance. In one case, we simply asked for an official apology to be extended to this member, and even that option was unacceptable.  We now put it to the Commission to ask the question whether this Executive truly has the desire or the capacity to really move this issue forward.

 

Mr. Chairman, strategies to revitalize the membership have included gimmicks. The catch-phrase ‘WE ARE CPS’ is insulting. The members mockingly use that phrase as a punchline when something bad happens. They’re looking for actions and results, not words and catchy phrases. They need courageous leadership, not corny slogans. At that recent parade that I attended, a senior patrol officer summed it up brilliantly; he said “Somehow, the Commission has misinterpreted our love for the job as satisfaction with our management. The truth is, we hang onto the love of policing as it’s the only tread keeping us in the game, despite our management”. The Senior Executive has become irrelevant.

 

We desperately need leaders to step up and make some courageous decisions and take action. It will require some guts. It will ruffle the feathers of the anti-police special interest groups. But these are the only measures which the members will believe in and honour as legitimate.

 

I am asking that you please take what I have said for what it is meant to be. It is an appeal that the Calgary Police Commission take notice of this evidence, and give clear and meaningful direction. I spoke with a street sergeant, running a team of young, once eager front-line officers. After the charges against the member for pointing his firearm, one of his young teammates said, “We’re expecting our first baby. I would rather get hurt than lose my job”. Those words are chilling. These people are going to take unreasonable risks to stay under the radar. We need to fix this, now; for the sake of the citizens of our city, and before one of the dedicated members sworn to serve them gets hurt or killed. Mr. Chairman, members of the Police Commission, we respectfully request you fulfill your role as an unbiased oversight of this Executive at a critical time for the Calgary Police Service.

 

 

Les Kaminski

President, Calgary Police Association

 

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