A 14-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service who claims she was bullied and sexually harassed has submitted a formal complaint to Chief Roger Chaffin, along with over a dozen other officers who allege they too were harassed.
Const. Jennifer Magnus (née Ward) attempted to quit during a Calgary Police Commission meeting on Jan. 31, but Chaffin refused to accept her tearful resignation. He thanked Ward for having the “courage to speak out,” but said he wanted to talk to her about it again after “some time” had passed.
Magnus has now retained a lawyer, along with a 13 current and former employees of the Calgary Police Service (CPS). The group submitted formal complaints to Chaffin on Friday, March 3.
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According to a news release from Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP, the employees allege that the CPS has “failed to provide a safe environment for certain employees, which has resulted in years of workplace bullying and harassment.”
“The employees allege that the culture of the CPS protects those who engage in abusive and harassing conduct in the workplace,” the release stated. “In certain cases, when targets expressed their concerns to superiors, they were advised that nothing would be done if a complaint is filed.”
According to the Calgary law firm, The Calgary Police Association, which is the union representing police officers, advised some of the employees “that it will not take on ‘blue on blue’ grievances” which left victims “feeling that they have nowhere to turn.”
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Magnus and her lawyer met with Chaffin on Feb. 16.
“We did not discuss my resignation, we will do that at a later date.” Magnus said. “It was a positive meeting and he did agree to bring in an external investigators to look into my complaints, as well as the … other complaints.”
“I am encouraged, because [Chaffin] did make a positive commitment to bringing in an external investigator – which I feel is an important step.”
“I believe this is a cultural issue that needs to absolutely change,” Magnus said.
She said the complaints come from male and female employees.
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“We have sworn officers and civilian employees,” Lawyer Rachel West told News Talk 770. “The systemic culture of what happens once you’ve made a complaint, what happens once you’ve blown a whistle is very consistent across the board.
“There needs to be a cultural shift, plain and simple.”
“Supervisors need to take their supervisory responsibilities seriously. When they are informed of a complaint or a concern, their response cannot be to shut that individual down. They need to listen, they need to take action and they need to move that complaint through whatever appropriate channels there are.”
West said next steps could include a lawsuit against the CPS.
“Well, I am a lawyer,” she said. “It’s always on the table.”
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Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin, meanwhile, says he welcomes the filing of complaints, adding he is committed to improving workplace culture within the service.
“This is a good opportunity for us to sit down with them and get out some of the details so we can move forward,” Chaffin said. “So we can make sure, see what needs to be fixed in the organization: if there’s actual misconduct, if there’s actual criminality that’s occurred. These are things that are important to me.”
With files from Gary Bobrovitz
Editor’s note: This article was updated on March 6 to state that formal complaints had been submitted to Chief Roger Chaffin.