Address to Police Commission: April 9, 2018
ADDRESS TO COMMISSION – APRIL 9th, 2018
A few days ago, we experienced a tragedy. It could have been much worse, but we were lucky. We could be preparing for a funeral, instead, a member is recovering miraculously from a gun-shot wound. It’s interesting to see how this incident instantly changed the game for the members, at least for the time being. Suddenly, the anti-police factions were stopped in their tracks, and support for the police was resurrected from the dead. The words “We put ourselves at risk to keep the city safe”, were put on display and it caused a groundswell of public support.
Anti-police sentiment has momentum, but a calm, reasonable voice can change the landscape. When the shooting occurred, many people, including police officers and their families, were offended and outraged that the media showed the raw footage of our members at the scene working to save Jordan Forget’s life. The CPA took the angle that the public needed to look at see those disturbing images because it was a real-life depiction of the perils and risks our members face to protect them from bad people. It humanized our members, who risk their lives on a daily basis to make Calgary a safer city.
People were made to realize that a police officer getting shot was not simply a segment on the 6 o’clock news. The raw footage made real our members as they fought to save their friends life. It made palpable the emotions that experience brings to our members. It brought the experience into context which they could understand. They saw how it affected our members. It wasn’t just a news story. It was a story about people, in their community, who worked hard and take risks on their behalf. It helped rebuild our reputation, at least a little.
The reputation of the Calgary Police Service is under attack. Expected sources, such as the Defense Lawyers Association, will do anything to embarrass and humiliate a police officer. Sadly, we suffer damage to our reputation from within the Service. A contributing factor is the Chief’s unbending stance to publicly reveal the identity of members accused and charged of a criminal offense. This takes a serious toll on our members and undermines the confidence of the citizens of Calgary in their police service. We appear to be a corrupt organization, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Immediately after the shooting, I was bombarded by media. When I arrived at the hospital I spoke with the Jordan’s family. They made it clear they did not want the identity of their loved one revealed. The family had also requested that the Chief not release his name and he respected their wishes. Because this member was injured, the policy on transparency was disregarded. Why was this different? Clearly, these officers had taken action in the execution of their duties. Why, in this instance did the Chief consult the family and then honor their wishes? Will the Chief will only respect our member’s and their family’s right to privacy if the member is seriously injured as a result of their duties? The Association would expect it shouldn’t take such extreme circumstances for all of our members to be respected in the same manner.
The protection of the family is a consideration in some instances. If a member is involved in a family domestic situation, that member’s identity is protected by the Chief, to spare the family any back-lash or embarrassment. So, if a police officer goes home and commits a horrendous act of domestic violence, his identity is withheld to protect his family. But, if a member is accused of an offense, while executing their duties in good faith, they will be identified by the Chief, without any consultation whatsoever. Then the member and his family and many others are left to cope with the fall-out. No consideration for the family is involved in the Chief’s decision. Police officers and their loved ones are a proud bunch. The embarrassment and humiliation that ensues causes permanent damage at many different levels. The fallacy that this blind practice of transparency promotes public trust could not be farther from the truth
In a joint meeting with the executive and the Association back in January, I asked why the names of our members are released when they have been ACCUSED, and I reiterate, it’s only an accusation, that they broke the law in the execution of their lawful duties. The Chief, after being told of the implications this practice holds, responded with, “If you want officers to stop being named, get another Chief”. He went on to say it should be taken up with the Commission as it is a directive which comes directly from them. If this is true, the Commission needs to fully understand the devastating aftershocks that this blind adherence to an arbitrary rule has upon the police officers and innocent family members caught in the middle.
Policing is a very unique profession. We are the only occupation given the power to suspend the liberty and freedom of another Canadian citizen, if we believe they have broken the law. This is a huge responsibility, subject to intense scrutiny. Lately, charging a police officer is the default position, perhaps to avoid controversy, avoid responsibility, or to leave the responsibility to the courts to determine if a police officer went beyond what’s admissible to uphold the law. ------- In the end, only between 3 and 4% of all officers charged are convicted. That means that upwards of 96% of all police officers charged are innocent of the allegations made against them. Meanwhile, their lives and reputations get dragged through the mud. Even when found innocent, the scars left behind have long lasting consequences and the ripples reach out to so many others.
The profession of policing is hazardous physically, emotionally and psychologically. Approximately 86% of police officers will go through divorce. PTSD is finally more understood, and prevalent among officers. We suffer from abnormally high suicide rates and substance abuse. The Service proclaims that they care deeply about the members, yet they willingly and knowingly (apparently under the direction of the Commission) add to the pressures and challenges we already face by voluntarily publicly humiliating them. The following is one of many examples.
A member was trying to cope with extreme pressures, both personally and job related. He struggles with depression and addiction, his fragile mental state making him a higher risk to commit suicide. He used substance abuse as an unhealthy coping mechanism. He made a bad decision and was charged with impaired driving by the RCMP. This drove the member deeper into depression. Without taking any of these factors into consideration, the Chief was prepared to release his name, which would denigrate him even further, exacerbating his depression. I consulted Constable Holly Dunbar, Officer Addiction Recovery Program Coordinator for the Service. She advised that members, not in recovery, that experience multiple personal tragedies in succession are at a very high risk. Had his name been released, he may have killed himself.
When the Chief publicly names a member, he also names their family. Children are embarrassed and hurt because of the reputational damage which results when their parent is publicly shamed. One member tearfully divulged that his 14-year-old daughter told him that she was embarrassed to share his last name. She was humiliated and felt shunned by her schoolmates so she asked to go live with her grandparents in another city. He confided in me that the ordeal pushed him into a deep depression. As he spiraled downward, he saw suicide as his only option. So, he wrote a suicide note, chambered a round in his service pistol, and put it in his mouth. At the final moment, what stopped him from pulling the trigger was the thought of his daughter finding his blood covered body.
The Commission and the Chief need to understand that naming a member goes much farther than simply adhering to a policy. This practice will push someone over the brink. We have come extremely close to losing members, and our luck will run out. We are asking for compassion for our members. If not for the members then for their families, unwilling participants in your policy of transparency. You may choose to stand behind this twisted, cruel, unethical policy. The result may be a member who is already suffering pushed to believe the only answer is to end their life. Your cold adherence to this policy will push them over the edge and cause irreversible damage and suffering to an entire family.
I know of another member who was criminally charged, named, found not guilty, charged internally, and found not guilty of all charges again. He shared with me that the media coverage was the final straw which broke his marriage apart. It has tainted his view of the Service forever. He believes he was abandoned and thrown to the wolves. He was once an extremely productive and energetic worker. Today, he feels loathing for how he was treated. He now comes to work, does the bare minimum, punches the clock and goes home. He feels no loyalty to an employer who showed no loyalty to him. This is a common theme with the members. They also despise the Service when a name is released, knowing that they could be the next victim. This practice breeds distrust and animus of the Service and the Chief.
I have many other examples. Another member was surprised and embarrassed to be questioned by the board of elders at his church after his name was released by the Service after being charged for arresting a criminal. For years he had chaperoned functions for the church’s youth group. He was forced to confirm that he was a good person, and that it was safe to have him interact with the young members of the church. Charges were later dismissed, yet the damage was done.
Another member told me how her arrest affected her young daughter. She and her classmates offered to write letters of support to present to the judge. They didn’t want to see their friend’s mom go to prison. These are the worries that releasing the names of our members brings to innocent children. They should not be subjected to these stresses simply by virtue of the choice of occupation by their parent.
Other positions of trust or authority are not subjected to the same degree of transparency. Lawyers answer to the Law Society, doctors to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Rarely do they face criminal charges when in the execution of their job-related functions. Police officers are more and more often criminally charged while in the execution of our duties, even though empowered to uphold the law for the good of our community. Then the Service complies in their public shaming, for doing our jobs in good faith. A member told me that he arrested and charged a drunken patron at a Flames hockey game for punching a young beer vendor who accidently spilt a drink on him. The suspect was an anesthetist at the children’s hospital. Clearly, it is in the public’s interest to know that a doctor who might be treating their child behaved in such a manner. Why is that person protected by the Service? Who decides when the threshold of public interest is breached?
Another example of the distrust and anger that this practice creates occurred after a member was charged for pointing a firearm at a traffic stop. The Service revealed his identity and then went on to misrepresented the event in the media. The Service stated that the reason the driver was pulled over was because he gave the officer the finger. The pertinent facts, signs which led the member to believe he was dealing with a stolen vehicle were left out, and the distorted story put the officer in very bad light. Three months later, the Chief came out in the media and said,
“Now, if you stop a stolen vehicle, there’ll be guns inside that car.”
“With all of these shootings, it really raises the tension about the need to be safe, and worry about the one call you’re going to go to where a gun’s going to be pointed at you.”
It’s this mixed messaging and the subsequent feeling of abandonment which has caused our members to lose all faith and trust in this Chief.
The Association firmly believes that the mandate for transparency is met when the Service announces that charges were laid against a member, period. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, the identity is not relevant. Incidentally and ironically, ASIRT has also taken this position in relation to the person who tried to murder Jordan Forget. They are protecting the identity of the gunman to reduce the negative impact this will have on his family. No such consideration is made when a member is named while in the execution of their duties, by ASIRT or the Service. ASIRT released the following;
"We release all the relevant information to allow the public to understand what happened. Knowing the injured or deceased person by name, instead of as 'the affected party' or 'complainant', adds nothing of additional relevance.
"It does, however, add greatly to the public exposure that will be imposed on the injured person or the family of a deceased," reads a joint statement from Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and B.C. civilian oversight agencies.
We find it reprehensible that protections for a dangerous, violent criminal are upheld, yet our members, who do their job in good faith, are considered fair game. The Service is complicit in this same twisted reasoning.
The Association’s stance is not unbending or unreasonable. If a member is on-duty, and their actions are not reasonably related to the execution of their duties, or blatantly egregious, we understand the need to release their identity. If there truly is a public interest we understand the release of a member’s name. If a member is found guilty of a criminal offense we understand the name will be released. What we adamantly oppose is releasing a member’s name merely to satisfy the morbid curiosity of a particular sector of society, and the blind adherence to a flawed principle. This does not justify making a police officer and their family suffer needlessly. Finally, we firmly believe that citizens (without an agenda or political position) don’t feel the need or want to know who a charged officer is unless the previous conditions exist.
The Service rationalizes that naming a member minimizes their exposure in the media. Our experience is in those instances when names aren’t released, media interest is minimal, and the story quickly dies. Regardless, members understand that the possibility exists that their identity may be revealed. What they can’t understand, or forgive, is that the Service serves it up on a silver platter. The very people they have been loyal to, their employer, their bosses, so willingly feed them to the wolves. It’s a huge insult that this occurs from within.
The Chief claims that releasing names creates public trust. Statistics show just the opposite. According to your own surveys, the public’s trust of the Calgary Police Service has never been lower than it is today. During the eight years prior to Chaffin beginning the practice of releasing members names, the public’s trust in us was at the highest levels ever. These are the facts.
Naming members serves no purpose other than to cause strife and turmoil in a police officer’s life. When an officer is charged, it’s front-page news. When that officer is found not guilty, it makes page 20. I heard rumor that the Chiefs of Police may be looking into developing a Provincial standard. This causes us great concern. Our counterparts in the Edmonton Police Association reported that a member of the Edmonton Police Executive stated that their sole intention in publicly naming charged members is to humiliate them. We hope that CPS executive would have the integrity and morals to steer clear of any standard with that goal in mind, or to work with an executive with that as a motive.
We, the Association board of directors, have been coming to you, the Police Commission, for well over a year, and feel we are not being heard, or simply dismissed and ignored.
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.
This should sound familiar to members of the Commission. This was part of an address I made to you on January 10th, 2017. This was ignored, and meanwhile, over 8000 Calgarians, the highest number in the country, were victims of car theft in 2017. ATRT was unveiled for the Commission on January 30th, 2018. A full year later. It was met with an enthusiastic response from the members of Commission. Not one question was asked about why this took so long, or how it came to be. This is one of many examples of how the Commission ignores the Association and does not hold the Chief to account. The membership gets more and more frustrated when they hear accountability preached, but in their eyes, it only applies to the rank and file.
Ignoring the CPA a year ago resulted in 8000 car thefts, 8000 citizens who were made victims of crime which may have been prevented. Ignoring us this time will result in the preventable death of a police officer and the immense suffering of innocent people.
On April 2nd, in an article in the Herald about the internal census, Chief Chaffin is quoted as saying,
“While acknowledging some of the respondents to the survey had legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, police Chief Roger Chaffin said morale seems to be improving among the rank and file.
“I do get a strong sense that it’s moving in the direction it should be moving,” he said Sunday.
What on earth is he basing this on? This statement is a lie, meant to fool both the Commission and the citizens. It’s smoke and mirrors.
Fact… Relations between the CPA and executive hasn’t been this bad since the year 2000. Fact… Moral amongst the members is at an all-time low and remains there. Fact… The members have zero trust in this executive and have given up and have resigned themselves to wait for a new day. Fact… Public confidence in the Service is at an all-time low.
This Chief continually misleads you. He assures you that things are heading in the right direction and that he speaks for the membership. I can say this is not true. The CPA is the voice of the membership. It’s Board of Directors is made up of people that are directly affected by the poor leadership and lack of direction that the chief has been selling to the Commission, and yet you continue to blindly trust him. Sadly, we now tell you our members are quickly losing faith in this Commission as well.
The CPA has come to the table for a year and a half, respectfully eager to work with you, to address issues important to our members and to policing in this city. We have tried to work with the Exec and the Commission because we believed that if we worked together, this city would be safer. But this city is not safer. We stated a year ago that there would be an increase in violent crime and gun crimes, yet proven teams continue to be dismantled, and what we predicted has happened. The tenure policy has made us less effective. We have filed upwards of 17 grievances, 6 lawsuits, and 6 complaints against the Chief. This is unprecedented in the history of the Calgary Police Service. Six years ago, I did a year as the interim president. Zero grievances, zero lawsuits, and zero complaints against the Chief were filed. Nothing this chief has implemented has worked. Every Chief of Police faces challenges. Every Chief must come up with solutions to address the needs of the community during his or her tenure. He has not.
Time and time again we have come to you with concerns and ideas, only to be ignored.
NOW you want us to be a part of strategy? It is clear we have no voice. Why should we get involved when our concerns and the concerns of the members are ignored? It is time that the Commission stop burying your heads in the sand and look in the mirror. It is time that the Commission re-examine their role and their responsibilities to the citizens of Calgary, and recognize their decisions, or lack of them, are having a negative impact on Calgarians, and the officers who have dedicated their lives to keeping this city safe.