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A warning sign for police chief

Union survey highlights "toxic environment" at DRPS

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A recent survey commissioned by the Durham Regional Police Association revealed a startling lack of trust in Chief Paul Martin and also highlighted a “toxic environment” within the DRPS workforce. However, perhaps more startling is the fact that the union has been ringing this alarm bell for the last two years.

The survey, completed by Pollara, saw about 36 per cent of the 1,150 members of the DRPA take part, and found that not only was there a lack of confidence in the leadership of Chief Martin, but also in CAO Stan MacLellan and the oversight of the Police Services Board. Over half of respondents (52 per cent), felt that Chief Martin should be removed from the position as soon as possible, and 66 per cent noted a dissatisfaction with the overall performance of the Police Services Board.

However, for DRPA president Randy Henning, the more surprising aspects of the survey were the numbers in terms of bullying and harassment, with 70 per cent of members sharing they had experienced at least one instance of bullying or harassment over the past three years. Of those, only 21 per cent filed a complaint.

“That number was staggering to me,” Henning says. “We have, in my opinion, a very toxic environment that members are working with.”

The job of police officers is hard enough, Henning says, noting last week’s awful domestic-related murder that left three dead.

“Yet, under those traumatic community needs, they’re also dealing with incidents inside the department, and that’s troubling,” he says.  “If things aren’t going well inside the department, it’s hard for them to go and do their job outside.”

The survey also discovered that DRPS members feel there is a “culture of favouritism” among senior management, and that promotions are based on “who you know” and not merit.

“We have been telling the board, and the chief, and anybody else that wants to listen from command, that there’s been problems out there for upwards of two years,” Henning says. “It’s a sad state for the Durham Regional Police Service, that it had to take the association to conduct its own survey of the members and produce those numbers in the public forum in order to get results or get action, to an issue that they’ve known for two years.”

As it stands, the numbers would suggest that the association would like to give Martin a chance to turn things around. While 52 per cent felt he should be removed as soon as possible, many more (77 per cent), simply believe that he shouldn’t be reappointed once his term is up at the end of May 2019.

“The membership is saying the chief has a short window to turn this around,” Henning says.

Following the release of the survey, Henning says he has since received a request from Chief Martin to sit down with the DRPA to discuss the results, and he’s also received a request from the Police Service Board to come and speak with them.

The meeting with Martin will mark only the third time Henning has sat down with the Chief in an official capacity in Martin’s four years as head of the Durham police force.

“We are the biggest partner within the police service, and he doesn’t meet with us at all.”

With that aside, Henning says he doesn’t wish to do battle in the media with the DRPS, but work together to move things forward.

“For me it’s not about fighting, I think that’s the wrong terminology, it’s about working collaboratively with our partners, and our partner is the police service and the board,” he says.  “That’s all we’re trying to do, affect change and make it better for the members to come to work every day, so that way they can, very honestly, do a better job of working with the public.”

In a statement released by Chief Martin following the survey’s release, he says he will be reviewing the results closely.

“I received a copy of the survey results on March 13th and brought together my leadership team the next morning to share the overall results and begin an initial discussion regarding some of the findings,” the statement reads. “As the Chief of the DRPS, I am incredibly proud of the outstanding women and men who work hard every day to keep our communities safe. I respect the issues and concerns they have brought forward in the survey and will work with my leadership team over the next few weeks to analyze the results in greater detail. We need to better understand some of the root causes of the dissatisfaction and clear up any misunderstandings about the work being done.. There’s a lot of information to review and we will be taking a detailed look at the survey results over the coming weeks.”