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Conclusions and Recommendations From Third-Party Investigator

 

Broadcast time:
10:15 AM

Date: February 2, 2021

In response to a complaint filed by an employee of the Sarnia Police Service in the spring of 2020, an independent third-party investigator was hired to conduct an impartial investigation into allegations of workplace harassment, discrimination, and violence.

 

The highly respected and experienced lawyer and investigator, Helen Daniel, commenced the investigation in September 2020. The investigation is now complete, and the conclusions and recommendations have been presented to the Sarnia Police Service Board (SPSB).

 

Before reporting the conclusions, I would like to acknowledge that since our appointments, the Deputy and I recognized the room for improvement and have begun addressing the opportunities. For example, the recently approved Collective Agreement has a Letter of Understanding setting out the parties’ commitment to review, modify, and improve the promotional process. SPS is exploring the necessary expansion of Human Resources services provided through a service level agreement with the City of Sarnia, Human Resources Department. We have also continued to develop and implement proactive strategies to increase diversity within the service, most recently conducting a recruitment seminar to attract diverse candidates, including women, visible minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

 

The outcome of the investigation concluded that the employee was not harassed, nor experienced workplace violence. Further, there was no evidence that any statement or actions were made that could reasonably be interpreted as a threat to exercise physical violence.

 

However, the findings of the investigation did outline that the workplace has become toxic from the pervasive gossip engaged in by officer and civilian employees throughout the SPS, and the employee and others have been subjects of that gossip. While such gossip is a course of conduct that one ought to know is unwelcome and can amount to harassment, this behaviour could not be attributed solely to any one person.

 

The Report provides recommendations to be taken by the SPS to assist in addressing and curbing the gossip and addressing other challenges in the workplace including:

 

  • The development of communication plans respecting Senior Administration decisions to assist in reducing the amount of gossip in the workplace. It was recommended that the Association take an active role in any program or effort undertaken by Senior Administration to improve the workplace culture.

     

  • Providing sensitivity training to all employees of the SPS in respect to harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence which specifically examines the impact of gossip in the workplace. Additionally, it was recommended that all levels of management, including Senior Administration, would benefit from management training highlighting working in a unionized environment, including engaging in difficult conversations and conflict management.

     

  • Undertake a review of the human resource support currently available to the management of the SPS to assess whether it is sufficient to provide the amount of support needed. Further,

     

  • It was recommended that the Association and Senior Administration should consider creating a separate bargaining unit to provide more effective management within the SPS. Currently Sergeants, Staff Sergeants and Inspectors are all in the same Association as those they supervise which makes the management of officers more difficult.

     

  • A review of the promotional process, including criteria assessed and scoring was also recommended including addressing issues of perceived and real conflict of interest when establishing members of promotional panels.

     

  • Women remain under-represented in the Sarnia Police force and it was recommended that diversity initiatives, including the recruitment of women, continue to be a priority for the SPS. The diversity initiative and strategic plan should also consider representation of women and minorities at all levels of the SPS.

     

  • The investigation also raised issues respecting how and when internal investigations
    respecting the SPS workforce are conducted. Depending on the nature of the events, an investigation may need to be undertaken whether or not the officer or employee involved initiates a specific complaint and as such a policy may need to be developed to determine standards for investigation processes developed, including when and by whom investigations respecting the SPS workforce will be conducted.

 

It was also noted that other SPS policies may need to be updated, reviewed, or established in alignment with these recommendations.

 

Following the review of the report, the Board and I are confident these findings will assist in directing the Service’s work towards a more respectful workplace while strengthening the values of equity and diversity. The Deputy and I have already begun to create an action plan to efficiently and effectively implement progressive measures and policies based on these recommendations.

 

Over the next three months, not only will SPS continue to work closely with the Sarnia Police Services Board, but we will also look to strengthen our partnership with the Sarnia Police Association (SPA) to help further enhance and direct the action plan. I have discussed the findings and recommendations of this report with SPA President, Miro Soucek, and he supports the Deputy and I by saying, “Although the Administration and the Association have always strived collaboratively to provide a safe workplace free from indignity, there will always be room for improvement. The SPA recognizes the many proactive steps that have recently been taken to improve the workplace culture, more cooperation is required, and we look forward to partnering with the current Senior Administration and Human Resources to address the issues and recommendations identified within this report.”

 

I have also reached out and discussed the findings with Chief Pamela Mizuno of the Windsor Police Service, knowing that they recently received a report and recommendations from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. In comparing report recommendations, it seems that many of their issues are very similar in nature to our own. Chief Mizuno has graciously offered to share the actions and best practices she and her team implemented to address concerns they have identified to provide a healthy work environment.

 

I assure the public that the Civilian and Sworn members of the Sarnia Police Service will work tirelessly to protect the citizens of Sarnia and will continue to do so with my support. I appreciate their level of service and am proud of their hard work and dedication.

 

 

Chief Norm Hansen

Chief of the Sarnia Police Service

Email: 86@police.sarnia.on.ca