RNC chief responds to critical external report, saying changes are coming

·4 min read
Veteran police officer Pat Roche has been chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for one year. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Veteran police officer Pat Roche has been chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for one year. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)

Chief Pat Roche says the he will "move forward" with a series of recommendations contained in a largely unflattering report that reviewed the workplace culture at the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

The workplace review by Toronto lawyer Harriet Lewis was released by Justice Minister John Hogan on Friday, and found that the force is providing the province with effective policing.

However, it contained nine recommendations aimed at improving morale at the RNC following years of negative headlines and a series of scandals involving officers.

Roche responded to the report on Tuesday, inviting reporters one by one into the executive board room at RNC headquarters in St. John's. Joining Roche were deputy chiefs Stephanie Legace and Colin McNeil, and Staff Sgt. Mike Summers, who is president of the RNCA, the union that represents roughly 400 officers.

Roche's key response to the report? That many of the recommendations are achievable, and that some will take more time to implement. But he said his goal is to "move forward with them."

That's welcome news to Summers, who credited Roche for a turnaround in morale at the RNC since Roche assumed the chief's role a year ago.

"He's had an open-door policy with me. As a matter of fact we meet regularly, if not once a week, and have very frank and open conversations," said Summers.

Summers acknowledged his members were at a low point in recent years, culminating in an overwhelming vote of non-confidence in former chief Joe Boland two years ago.

But Summer said "I do believe that morale has certainly come around and is on the [uptick]."

Summers added some of the recommendations put forth by Lewis were already being implemented prior to the report's release, and he looks forward to more discussions with the chief and the justice minister.

WATCH | RNC Chief Pat Roche responds to a report that highlighted morale problems across the force: 

He said many of the issues affecting morale are now found outside police headquarters, and include matters relating to personnel and equipment shortages that are making it challenging for officers to perform their duties.

"A lot of the issues we have been bringing forward to the government are contained in these recommendations," said Summers.

Meanwhile, one of the recommendations is that a full review of operations be undertaken to ensure resources are being deployed in the best manner, and Roche said that will happen.

"We have to look around our organization to see where we can be more efficient," he said.

"That's not an easy task but we have to do a complete look-over of this organization to see where we are, and where can we put these."

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

Lewis's investigation found there is an issue with morale at the RNC, both among uniformed officers and civilian employees.

Roche, who became interim chief a year ago and officially stepped into the role in February, said he's working with the RNCA "to improve our position with the membership."

Lewis's investigation revealed there is a suspicion of favouritism, and fear of discipline and reprisal is widespread among officers.

When asked about this, Roche said he attempts to "treat everybody the same" when it comes to discipline, and the promotional process is entrenched in the collective agreement.

"It's incumbent on everybody to be prepared to come into these interviews and these promotional processes," Roche said about a promotions process that Lewis said "pits members of the force against each other."

Roche said "it is a competition, but everyone is treated the same and fairly."

Officers should feel valued, chief says

The report also found that civilian employees at the RNC feel disrespected, undervalued and underpaid.

Roche said civilian employees are the "backbone" of the RNC, and that he plans to address those concerns.

"They've identified it as a problem. Therefore we have to address it with the membership and with the civilians to see where our shortcomings are, and how we move forward with this," said Roche.

Lewis's recommendations are targeted largely at improving human resources protocols at the RNC, and includes a request to review organizational charts, the job competition process and the performance management system.

Lewis also recommends an investment in technology to support policing and administrative functions.

The final report recommends that a "trusted place" be established where RNC employees can bring concerns about misconduct. Roche said that will happen.

"It's a concern of mine that officers feel that way; that they feel they cannot come forward without reprisal," said Roche.

Meanwhile, Roche said said he's working hard to let RNC employees know they are valued and appreciated, and that they can speak candidly with him.

"I want to hear from them as to how they want this organization to look, and work with them so we are a reflection of the members that we have here," said Roche.

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