May 25th, 2024

Police Commission addresses questions on whistleblower policy

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - LETHBRIDGE HERALD on October 28, 2021.

The request for formal answers to several questions surrounding reports of police misconduct and how the Lethbridge Police Service deals with whistleblowers brought forward during last month’s meeting by Michael Bates, an attorney for both MLA Shannon Phillips and the woman who accused retired Insp. Bill Kaye of sexual assault last year, were addressed during Wednesday’s Lethbridge Police Commission meeting.
Police Commission chair Robert VanSpronsen dealt with each question posed by Bates at last month’s meeting.
“Does the Commission have any policies or policing standards which direct the Chief of Police to protect citizens, or members of the media in particular, who are seeking public accountability from being retaliated against by members of the Lethbridge Police Service?” Bates asked last month.
“All police officers in the province of Alberta, municipal police officers are subject to the police service regulations act and that outlines expectations of behaviour, so officers who engage in behaviour that breaches those police service regulations are subject to discipline and in the case of the Lethbridge Police Service all members are subject to the police service regulation,” responded VanSpronsen.
“What steps, if any, have been taken since July of 2020 to eliminate differential treatment of citizens by LPS officers based on their political views?” asked Bates.
“I recognized this a little bit of a loaded question because there is no burden of proof put on the person who asked that. We do in fact have differential treatment of citizens based on their political views, but at the same time I want to also point out that the police service regulations also apply to in this case, officers are breaching that, there is a due process, and they will be held accountable to that.
The other thing is that what happened earlier with the two officers, the Chief has taken steps in the action plan to address unauthorized use of database searches and that we believe has been addresses through changes in policies and regulations at the Lethbridge Police Service,” responded VanSpronsen.
“The first question was: Has the LPS received direction from the Commission through the Chief of Police to ensure that sexual assault survivors, and in particular sex trade workers, are treated with dignity and respect at all times within the LPS?” asked Bates.
“All I can say in that instance, is that the commission investigated that piece, and the Lethbridge Police Service has a policy with regards how officers are to deal with victims that come forward, victims of sexual assault or human trafficking. There is a policy that guides that behaviour last reviewed in 2020,” responded VanSpronsen.
“Does the Commission have a process to facilitate and protect whistleblower disclosures by LPS personnel?” asked Bates.
“Yes, actually the whistle blower process is actually from the city of Lethbridge, all of the employees from the Lethbridge Police Service are employees of the City of Lethbridge, so they have access to those policies,” responded VanSpronsen during the meeting.
VanSpronsen added later at an interview with the Herald that they are determined to make sure that the LPS employees have knowledge that the policy and the process exist.
“The process is very clear, it tells you who you are supposed to go to, explains how the process is dealt with, it is done by the city, so if people from LPS are concerned it’s going to be dealt with internally by upper management, it is not. It is taken out of the LPS and into the hands of the city and there is a very definite process,” said VanSpronsen.
VanSpronsen also added that the whistle blower policy does say that they want to avoid using anonymous submissions.
“We can’t do anything with an anonymous submission. So, we encourage employees that if there are issues or concerns to take it through the proper process. The whistle blower policy is there, the process is laid out in that policy and tell you where to go and who deals with it and how it all works out,” said VanSpronsen.
VanSpronsen explained that the policies are there for City employees. They are accessible for the employees through their own intranet.
“We are now looking into ‘how do we make those policies accessible to the public?’ and that is something that we are looking into. Of course there is FOIP regulations, but we do think it’s important that those policies are accessible to the public as well,” said VanSpronsen.
VanSpronsen said the policies and processes are in place. If there are concerns they follow those processes and there are avenues for appeal. The Law Enforcement Review Board has an option to appeal when issues arise.
“Is the Commission in a position to advise today if they will be notifying the Minister of Justice of an intention to commence an inquiry pursuant to Section 32 of the Police Act based on the letters submitted on behalf of my two clients on Sept. 27, 2021?” Bates asked in posing his final question last month.
“We are not prepared at this point because we are still looking into it. We are gathering information and we also sought legal counsel and our last information came to us in Oct. 22 so we do need a bit more time to process the information and to take into consideration all the aspects and come to a decision that we will be able to share with you on or before the next commission meeting in November,” said VanSpronsen in response during Wednesday’s meeting.

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pursuit diver

I support the new Chief and know he will be dealing with the issues in a proper and fair manner. He took on a difficult leadership role when he became Chief, taking on many issues which occurred prior to his arrival and he is working hard to bring change as he works issues that are from all sides. At first, I didn’t like what I heard in the new Chief, but after seeing him in action, working hard to resolve issues, I support him 100%.
The Chief, the new Council all have a huge task before them with so many issues to be dealt with. It will be a tough job for all and we need to support them!
We have cutbacks in grants and funding from both the federal and provincial governments that will see impacts to us in the next several years as well as all the other issues. I wouldn’t want their jobs! They need our support!