No one surprised by police sexual assault allegations, reads RNC workplace review

·4 min read
A workplace review of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is complete.  (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
A workplace review of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is complete. (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
Paul Daly/CBC
Paul Daly/CBC

A review of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's work environment found a police force dealing with morale issues, poor communication, resentment, suspicion of favouritism, fear of discipline and a system of promotion that pits members of the force against each other.

What's more, the 66-page report written by lawyer Harriet Lewis, says staff members — some of whom are no longer with the force — weren't shocked by allegations of sexual offences made public by ongoing legal actions. The timing of the review coincided with the conviction of Doug Snelgrove and civil actions against other officers.

"Few admitted to actual knowledge of such behaviour by fellow officers," wrote Lewis.

The review involved officers of all ranks and civilian employees of all positions. Lewis wrote civilian staff believe they are not respected, that their work is undervalued and that they are underpaid.

Short-term change for long-term reform

In her report, Lewis suggests action should be taken by the province and the RNC to make a difference in morale and the police force's effectiveness.

However, she continued, some of the problems cannot be fixed, or at least not fixed quickly.

"There must be more thought and careful planning to ensure any change will help the RNC workplace in the longer term," Lewis wrote.

"Transformative change requires time, visionary leadership or additional resources."

The review was not an investigation into police conduct, rather it was to assess and make recommendations in respect of improvements needed to maintain a healthy workplace at the RNC and to provide officers and staff with a supportive environment.

Lewis made nine recommendations:

  • The core human resources services be moved "in house" to the RNC and staffed by an experienced and professional director of human resources working under the chief and executive director and in cooperation with the manager of employee wellness and safety

  • An experienced human resources consultant be hired or assigned to begin work with the director of human resources and senior team at the RNC to assess, create and/or revise the RNC's human resources framework: organization charts, job descriptions, policies, a job evaluation system, training system, job competition process and supporting documentation, and performance management system.

  • The Ministry retain or assign a qualified individual or individuals to coordinate and work with a labour/management committee to review the RNCA agreement with a focus on any changes that may be needed to address the issues identified herein.

  • The Ministry provide the chief and deputy chiefs with the opportunity to obtain management education or training with a focus on human resource management, communications and conflict resolution; and make communication skills a pre-requisite for all commissioned officer positions going forward.

  • The Ministry assess, and make necessary investments in RNC technology to support its policing and administrative functions.

  • The Ministry conduct or direct a review of the human and physical resources available for patrol.

  • The Ministry consider a "value for money" assessment of RNC's activities to determine if resources are being allocated to stated priorities and if duties are being assigned appropriately and effectively between officers and civilian employees.

  • The Ministry retain or assign a qualified individual to work with the executive team and others as required to develop a multi-year budget planning process and a two-year budget to address the key elements of the Chief's Plan 2022-2024.

  • The Ministry identify an office or individual to be designated as a trusted place for RNC employees to bring concerns about misconduct under the parameters of an RNC Safe Disclosure Policy.

Lewis wrote she did not believe there exists the widespread disconnect and distance between the force and the people of the province. She said Justice Minister John Hogan and Chief Pat Roche have recognized the need for change.

"What I hope as this review concludes is that some change will take place in the short run that will help the environment within the force and position it to make other changes that are or will be necessary in the future," wrote Lewis.

"I believe strong support from the ministry is needed, but there is much that must be done within the RNC itself."

These are all things, not that we're happy to hear, but we need to hear them. - John Hogan

Hogan hadn't read the entire report and recommendations before speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, but said his department is ready to review them and take them seriously.

"These are all things, not that we're happy to hear, but we need to hear them. We need to know the issues to make sure that the force is operating as effectively as possible," he said.

Hogan said both the human resource issues and the sexual assault allegations stood out to him.

Garrett Barry/CBC
Garrett Barry/CBC

However, he said he is confident in RNC leadership, and that they and government will be able to fix workplace culture issues for the future.

"It's not about whether I'm concerned or not, it's about recognizing that that issue exists and working with the RNC to fix that," he said.

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