RNC workplace report fails to address most damning allegations, lawyer says

·3 min read
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary — led by Chief Patrick Roche, pictured here in a file photo — is under fire again after a workplace investigation found flaws with the way the force is run. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary — led by Chief Patrick Roche, pictured here in a file photo — is under fire again after a workplace investigation found flaws with the way the force is run. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The lawyer representing women accusing Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers of sexual assault calls a report reviewing the force's work environment "mindblowing" and a whitewash instead of addressing substantive problems in the force.

The Department of Justice released lawyer Harriet Lewis's 66-page report on Friday. It said some RNC members weren't shocked by allegations of sexual offences and noted a few also "admitted to actual knowledge of such behaviour."

"I think that it speaks to a widespread culture of dysfunction and a tolerance for sexual abuse," said Lynn Moore, who is representing eight women proceeding with a civil cases against officers.

Moore says one statement of claim for that matter was already filed in court regarding a police officer who was allegedly sexually assaulted by another police officer.

She says the other seven women will be in court in August to obtain what's called a Jane Doe order in an attempt to protect their identities and privacy.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Meanwhile, Lewis's report found the RNC is 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.

Moore says that assessment of the workplace creates a culture in which members of the force and civilian staff don't have an opportunity to have their complaints addressed.

Still, she says, the report didn't zero in on wider issues with the force, as it was commissioned against the backdrop of the bombshell sexual assault allegations becoming public.

"You have a problem which involves the safety of the public, and then you commission a report that is asked to look at the structure of the RNC. It just seems to me to be a whitewash, an attempt to look like you're doing something when, in fact, you're not doing much of anything at all to address the problem," Moore said on CBC's The St. John's Morning Show.  

"The problem is an attitude of sexism and a tolerance for gender-based violence. And this report does not get at that at all," she said.

Civilian oversight needed: Moore

Upon releasing the workplace review, the Department of Justice said in a news release last week that the report is not an investigation into police conduct as there are formal ways for people to make complaints about the police, such as the Serious Incident Response Team, and complaints commissions for the RNC and RCMP.

Moore said creating SIRT, a civilian-led organization, was a good move, but she believes the whole police oversight and complaint system needs to be restructured and re-evaluated.

"The vast majority of those complaints are dismissed by the chief of police and never make it to the Public Complaints Commission. So the level of civilian oversight that we have is negligible," she said

"I think that we're in a crisis now and that we really need to to look at how, and if, the public are being adequately protected by the police services that we have."

'Systemic issues' need to be addressed: PCs

Helen Conway Ottenheimer, the Progressive Conservative MHA for Harbour Main, said Tuesday that RNC officers are "for the most part" committed and dedicated.

"But it's fundamentally important that we look at systemic issues.... We need to make sure that within the RNC there are not attitudes, patriarchal attitudes and sexism ... that contributes, say, to sexual misconduct or any other kind of misconduct."

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Speaking to reporters, Ottenheimer also nodded to a separate report that the Indigenous advocacy group First Voice released Monday.

That report recommended an overhaul of police oversight in the province, suggesting the creation of a civilian board that could investigate police and create policies to guide both forces.

Ottenheimer said she fully endorsed that recommendation.

"Both reviews indicate that there are issues and that there are challenges with respect to police misconduct that need to be addressed," she said.

"I think a great start with would be with the police board being established as soon as possible."

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