(Canadian OH&S News)
WorkSafeBC has confirmed that it is conducting an investigation into the West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD), following media reports of workplace bullying and harassment.
WorkSafeBC spokesperson Megan Johnston said that oh&s officers would visit the workplace to determine whether the police force is in compliance with new workplace anti-bullying and harassment policies that came into effect last November. The policies include, among others, requirements to have a written policy statement and procedures for reporting incidents and complaints.
“We are made aware of concerns about workplace health and safety issues through various channels. In this case, it was through media reports,” Johnston said. “WorkSafeBC has not received any complaints directly about WVPD.”
Media reports involving the retirement announcement of Chief Constable Peter Lepine have raised concerns about the WVPD’s recent employee engagement and satisfaction survey and allegations of sexual and racial harassment, bullying and retribution against those who bring forth such allegations. On Feb. 17, Lepine emailed all staff in the police department to inform them that he would retire from his position when his contract ends in September.
“I know that there will be many who will attempt to link this decision and my note to you today to a news article that has appeared… regarding our employment engagement survey and the anonymous comments regarding harassment in the workplace,” Lepine wrote.
“From a timing perspective, it is unfortunate that this message and the article are out at the same time, however I have no control over this, despite what some will think. My conversations regarding my future plans and succession planning have been ongoing for three months now, including the timing of various notices, [and] have been known long before this news article.”
Lepine added in the email that the succession planning process had been ongoing since November and that “it was always my intention to retire once my contractual obligations were met, which also coincides with my personal 35th anniversary as a police officer.”
Detective Corporal Tom Wolff Von Gudenberg, president of the West Vancouver Police Association, said that he is concerned about the employee engagement survey and allegations, but he thinks that many of the comments made in the media by former employees are not indicative of the current conditions at the police department.
West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith said in a press release that the WVPD will immediately commence its search for a new chief and that the force provides excellent service to the citizens of the municipality. “While it is clear there are important matters to deal with at the WVPD, the citizens of West Vancouver can be assured that the community has been, and continues to be, served well by the WVPD,” Smith said. “We are proud of our 102-year-old force, and in surveys, the citizens of West Vancouver tell us that they are more than satisfied with the service they receive from the force.”