By Jensen, Randy on April 15, 2020.
The Lethbridge Police Service executive is mending fences with the Lethbridge Police Association, and is making good progress despite some lingering issues, says Chief of Police Scott Woods.
“I think we are in a good place within the police service,” he says. “That’s not to say we don’t have any issues, and more specific to some employees don’t have some issues. I think we have to be careful that one person or a few individuals are going to paint the organization in its entirety. I am intent on continuing the progress I have made thus far (with the LPA). I think we have taken a number of strides in the right direction. I would suggest morale is in a much better place within the last six to seven months, and I think we are trending in the right direction.”
Referring to the positive comments made by LPA president Jay McMillan to The Herald last week, Woods feels all within the police service have stepped up to meet the challenges of the current pandemic.
“I am really pleased to see the comments from Jay,” he says. “I can’t thank him enough for his leadership, and the leadership of the police association. For us to be collaboratively working together when we’re dealing with resourcing issues, it’s all coming together, and that’s thanks to everybody in the police service. Not just our police officers, but all our non-police personnel from our cleaning staff, our records staff and all the way up. We’ve come together during this crisis, and I am pretty happy to see us bonding like this and moving forward.”
The mental as well as physical health of LPS employees remains a major focus of the executive, says Woods.
“Over the last few years (mental health) has come to a head as being something we have to acknowledge and deal with, and I think there has probably been an increase in instances as it has become more socially acceptable to speak about and to be able to get the help needed with that,” he says referring to the percentage of officers on health leave at the moment for work-related stress of mental-health reasons. “It’s definitely an issue for first responders and policing in general from a lot of the stuff we have to deal with. We want our staff to be able to access the resources they need in order to deal with that, because it does take its toll on you over the course of a career.”
“These stresses have always been there,” adds Woods, “they really have. But they were always pushed aside in previous generations or maybe were not put into the context they needed to be.”
He says both he and the LPA are committed to helping transition officers currently on leave due to health issues back to active duty as the pace of their recovery allows.
“Ultimately if someone is off work, we would like to get them back to work,” he says. “But we have to get them back to work when they are ready and able to get back to work. We are looking at some of our processes on that to help people reintegrate into the police service, and ultimately get them back to being a fully functioning employee for us.”
Woods says this is just one of many issues the LPS executive and LPA agree on, even while acknowledging more progress is still needed in other areas of the relationship.
“It doesn’t do anybody any good if we are going to be fighting inside the organization or outside,” he says. “I am a firm believer we have to have a professional, constructive and productive relationship between the two of us. And that’s something I have been striving for in my time as chief, and I am proud we are moving in that direction. We are almost 300 people within this organization so I am not naive enough to think everybody is going to be happy. But I think we are moving in the right direction, and as an organization we are getting healthier. And I think it is going to continue to get healthier.”
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