Arbitration hearing against former Kennebecasis officer unable to proceed

·2 min read

An arbitration hearing into a complaint against a senior officer with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force was unable to proceed Thursday after the officer's retirement was confirmed.

Porter, who was an inspector with the force, was accused of 81 breaches of the Police Act, including alleged sexual harassment and other Police Act offences involving a female civilian employee he supervised.

He was suspended for four years with pay over sexual harassment allegations and was scheduled for an arbitration hearing in October.

A week before that hearing, Porter formally indicated that he planned to retire at the end of the year, and the hearing was adjourned to Dec. 31.

The hearing resumed over a private call Thursday, but did not move forward when Porter's retirement was confirmed.

The New Brunswick Police Commission only has the authority to discipline active police officers.

"Arbitrator Gary McLaughlin has determined that as Jeff Porter is no longer a member of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force and no longer a member of a police force that he, Arbitrator McLaughlin, no longer has jurisdiction to hear the complaint," the commission's executive director, Jennifer Smith, said in an email Thursday.

Smith declined to comment further.

Civil suit against Porter planned, lawyer says

A civil suit against Porter is now being planned, a lawyer for the woman who filed the complaint said Thursday.

Brian Murphy, a lawyer with Forté Law Droit in Moncton, said his client will take legal action in the new year.

Following Porter's retirement announcement in October, Murphy said he reached out to stakeholders and municipalities of the joint boards through their lawyer to inquire whether further action would be taken against Porter, but received no "meaningful response."

Murphy said his client will be seeking recognition, apologies, fair treatment and policy changes from a civil lawsuit.

Police force, board of commissioners release statement

The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force and KRPF Joint Board of Commissioners released a joint statement following the hearing.

"This has been a lengthy and difficult process for the KRPF and its employees," the organization said in the statement.

It said the police force has been improving the working environment since the allegations were presented in 2016, including the hiring of a new police chief, senior leadership team and a full-time human resources professional.

Harassment, ethics and respectful workplace training is now provided to its staff every year, it said.

In an email to CBC News, Chief Wayne Gallant said "we will not be commenting beyond that statement."

A 31-year veteran of the force that covers Quispamsis and Rothesay, Porter has been suspended with pay since June 2016, following a written conduct complaint filed by the female employee.

An inspector's annual salary ranges from about $104,000 to $115,000.

Municipal and regional forces in New Brunswick cannot suspend an officer without pay unless the officer has been convicted of an offence under provincial or federal legislation.