Saint John police chief to step down after only a year in role

·2 min read

After just one year on the job Saint John Police Force Chief Stephan Drolet is stepping down.

In a news release, the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners confirmed Drolet will leave his role Feb. 20 "for personal reasons."

Deputy Chief Tony Hayes will take over until the commission finds a new chief, the release said.

Drolet became chief in February of last year. He led the force as it adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, budget cuts of more than $1 million, a ransomware cyberattack and increased scrutiny from the public as policing agencies reckoned with systemic racism in their ranks.

Before coming to Saint John Drolet worked with the RCMP for 27 years and was British Columbia's deputy criminal operations officer.

Police force spokesperson Jim Hennessey said Drolet will not be available for comment Friday and had nothing further to add to the commission news release.

In an interview commission chair Ed Keyes said he could not elaborate on the reasons for Drolet's departure.

"He'd given a lot of thought, but he just, due to his personal reasons, couldn't continue," he said.

However, he said Drolet's departure will not slow progress on labour negotiations or strategic planning.

"He had put together a very capable senior management team led by Deputy Chief Hayes and his inspectors," he said.

Interim chief open to 'different approaches'

The commission release said Hayes began his career with the Saint John Police Force in 1992 and has been involved in fraud and criminal investigations.

"His openness to consider different approaches to address challenges positions him well as an interim chief as the leadership role of policing continues to evolve," said Keyes in the the release.

This does put a little wrinkle in in that process, but we'll get through it together. - Duane Squires, union president.

The commission will begin the recruitment process for a new chief immediately, Keyes said.

Drolet replaced Bruce Connell, who came out of retirement two years ago to become chief after John Bates retired. Keyes said it took three to four months to hire Drolet, and it will likely take the same amount of time to replace him.

Departure 'unfortunate,' union president says

Negotiations between the police union and the force have been going on for about a year, and the two sides have reached an impasse once so far.

Duane Squires, president of the Saint John Police Association, which represents unionized officers, said the union was looking forward to working with Drolet during negotiations.

"It is unfortunate and unexpected, too, but understandable," he said in an interview.

The two sides haven't scheduled another negotiation meeting yet.

"This does put a little wrinkle in in that process, but we'll get through it together," Squires said.

The police commission is in charge of appointing the chief of police and overseeing the force's operations.