Justice Minister Andrew Parsons did a delicate diplomatic dance Monday as a feud continues to grow between the association representing most frontline officers with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and its chief of police, Joe Boland.
In a series of interviews with the media on Monday morning, Parsons expressed complete confidence in both the RNC Association, which represents some 380 non-commissioned officers, and the man he hand-picked to lead the force three years ago.
Parsons said the RNCA has brought forward "significant concerns" about Boland's leadership, and pledged to work with the association to address those concerns.
But in almost the same breath, Parsons expressed "100 per cent confidence" in the chief, saying "I still think he is the right person for the job."
Boland, a 37-year veteran of the RNC who made police accountability one of his top priorities from Day 1, is at the centre of a revolt among officers.
In a rare move, the RNCA organized a membership vote on the chief's leadership last month. The results — posted to social media on Friday by retired Sgt. Tim Buckle — showed 76 per cent of members voted, and 90 per cent of them expressed a lack of support for the chief.
It prompted Boland to issue a defiant statement, saying he planned to continue on as chief in the face of what he called a "scheme" to discredit and intimidate him by a "noisy minority." Boland also said it was orchestrated by officers who seek to avoid accountability and oppose progressive changes.
In a press release sent to CBC, RNCA president Sgt. Mike Summers said that was not the case.
"We understand that this vote, by its very nature, is a divisive process, but we in no way seek to intimidate or coerce the chief from fulfilling his mandate, as we work to represent the women and men of the RNCA," Summers wrote.
"We agree, and believe, that all officers of the RNC should be held accountable and meet the high standards that are represented by the RNC core values. The issues at hand for the association extend beyond the imposition of discipline by the chief of police."
Before releasing the voting results, Buckle also released the results of a 2019 job satisfaction survey that found most officers feared retribution if they filed a grievance, complaint or appeal.
Buckle has waged a stinging campaign against Boland's character and leadership on social media, writing that Boland "failed to hold himself to the high standard he set for everybody else."
Summers said the RNCA brass was disappointed in Boland's response to the vote.
"Unfortunately, rather than recognize the results of this vote, and begin a process to rebuild the relationship between the executive and the front-line members, Chief Boland has chosen to question the legitimacy of the process," he wrote.
Relationships 'take work'
Parsons confirmed Monday he has held several meetings with the association in recent days.
Parsons said he wants to work with both sides to find a resolution, but in the meantime, he's not concerned that the friction is interfering with the RNC's duty to the public.
"There's nothing ever easy about these types of relationships or about this job. But these things take time. It's like any relationship that's out there. They take work. They take understanding. They take clear communication. And they take trust. I have that in both of these entities. I have that in the men and women of the RNCA. I have that in Chief Joe Boland. I'll continue to have that. And I hope they have that in me," said Parsons.
And just how long is Parsons willing to tolerate the internal bickering?
"I'll tolerate it as long as I have to, as long as there is a clear chain of communication or it doesn't impact the work that's being done. I've seen no indication that the work has been impacted. I think that public confidence in the RNC has risen each and every year since I've been here," he said.