More than half of Durham police officers want chief replaced, online survey finds

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More than half of Durham police officers want chief replaced, online survey finds

An online survey has found that more than half of Durham police officers think Police Chief Paul Martin should be replaced as soon as possible.

The survey, conducted from Feb. 5 to 25 by the polling firm Pollara for the Durham Regional Police Association, found dissatisfaction with the chief, the Durham Regional Police Services Board and Chief Administrative Officer Stan MacLellan.

Fifty-two per cent believe Martin should be removed from his position before his current term expires in May 2019, while 77 per cent think he should not be reappointed to a second term. 

More than three-quarters, or 79 per cent, say senior management engages in a "culture of favouritism," with 81 per cent believing promotions are based on "who you know."

As for employee morale, 85 per cent feel that rank-and-file officer morale is worse now than it was five years ago, with a majority 61 per cent strongly feeling this way. 

The survey also found 70 per cent of members reported experiencing at least one incident of bullying or harassment in the past three years but only 21 per cent having filed a complaint.

The survey had a response rate of 36 per cent, with 418 out of 1,150 police association members taking part. About 850 members are police officers.

Randy Henning, president of the association, said the numbers are disturbing and show a clear need for "some dialogue" between the association and police services board.

"It shows that we have, to me, a very toxic work environment here at Durham Regional Police Service. We have been attempting to explain that to the police service board and the chief for upwards of a couple of years," he said.

Henning said Martin has only met with the association twice in nearly four years.

"I think that speaks volumes right there," he said. "I think the numbers speak for themselves." 

Henning said the bullying numbers are "staggering" and "disheartening." He said only a fraction of members actually filed complaints because they fear reprisal and damage to their careers and they don't think the complaints will be treated fairly or in a timely manner.

"I've been a police officer working for Durham Regional Police Service for almost 35 and a half years and I've never seen morale as low as it is right now," he said.

Police chief pledges to analyze results 

Martin wrote in an email statement that he has begun to discuss the issues raised in the survey with his leadership team.

"I respect the issues and concerns that have been brought forward in the survey and will work with my leadership team over the next few weeks to analyze the results in greater detail," he said.

"We need to better understand some of the root causes of the dissatisfaction and clear up any misunderstandings about the work being done." 

Martin said he will talk to the leadership of the association to discuss the issues.

 "We are aware from our own surveys that members have been frustrated about the promotional process, staffing levels on frontline platoons and the number of officers who have been borrowed from the frontline to address emerging issues and operational challenges.

"We have been working diligently to improve our internal processes, replace our vacant positions faster and address any internal issues related to equity, inclusion and fairness," he said.

Board to discuss survey at next meeting

In a statement, the board also acknowledged the issues expressed by the survey.

"The board takes seriously the issues raised by the association and will review the findings of the survey at its next meeting on April 9, 2018. The Board continues to support the leadership of Chief Martin and looks forward to ongoing dialogue with all members and the DRPA to ensure the DRPS remains an effective, productive, safe and healthy organization."

Henning said he is surprised, given the findings, that the board has not organized a special meeting to address the concerns raised in the survey.

"We are demanding change. And the status quo at the Durham Regional Police Service is unacceptable," he said.

Henning said the association holds the police services board accountable for the actions of its most senior managers.

60 per cent satisfied with their jobs

The survey arose out of a non-confidence vote against Martin, MacLellan and police services board that passed at a special general meeting of the membership held to discuss DRPS leadership in January. 

Other key findings include:

- 80 per cent want MacLellan removed from his position as soon as possible and placed, with 67 per cent strongly feeling this way.

- 66 per cent are dissatisfied with the performance of the police services board.

- 60 per cent are satisfied with their jobs, while 30 per cent are dissatisfied.

- 56 per cent are proud to work for the Durham police.

The results among the total sample carry a margin of error of +3.8%, 19 times out of 20. Any discrepancies in totals are due to rounding.