Email to the Editor: Rushing to judgment on police chief doesn’t serve community

The following is an open letter from Kelly Bergeron about the absence of Cornwall Police Services Chief Shawna Spowart:

Dear media, local leaders and the Cornwall Police Services Board,

We are writing to express our full support for Chief of Police Spowart, who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the police force and the wider community. While acknowledging the remarkable progress achieved under her leadership, it is disheartening to witness the rush to judgment by some community leaders based on incomplete survey results being leaked to the public.

The Chief has made significant strides in fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for all residents. Her proactive recruitment and comprehensive training programs have transformed the police force into a more diverse and empathetic agency that reflects our society’s fabric. She was one of the only leaders to show up at the downtown business roundtable last week, to address the rise in crime and vandalism in the downtown. These issues have made mostly female business owners feel unsafe. She led that conversation with empathy and action.

Despite the challenges she faces as a woman in a leadership position, the Chief has shown resilience, breaking down stereotypes and inspiring other women to pursue careers in law enforcement. Her success exemplifies that gender should never limit one’s potential to lead.

It is dismaying to see how certain individuals have seized upon leaked incomplete survey results to criticize the Chief without considering the full context. We urge the community to await a comprehensive understanding of the survey results before passing judgment. By considering the Chief’s initiatives, programs, and community engagement efforts, along with the perspectives of those impacted, we can foster a fair and informed dialogue.

Under Chief Spowart the Cornwall Police Service has become a more diverse organization. We should not forget that there will always be those who feel threatened when the status quo is challenged and those who feel that diversity means a loss of opportunity for themselves.

I think that it is telling that the Deputy Chief, Vincent Foy, is rated so highly in this survey as opposed to Chief Spowart, but not in the way that has already been implied in local media. These results must be given context. The police are a traditionally male-dominated field and the Police Services Board and the community at large must take into consideration any biases, unconscious or otherwise, that have baked themselves into this survey.

We have no reason to question the ability of Deputy Chief Foy, just as we have no doubt in the ability of Chief Spowart, but we do feel that a bias against women cannot be discounted here.

The Police Services Board should keep in mind that this survey is a political document, commissioned and then leaked to the media for a political purpose. That is not to say that all of its results should be discounted, but that the motivation behind this survey and especially behind the leak to the public should be kept in mind.

Our Chief of Police embodies progress and change, advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her vision for a police force that upholds the law while fostering understanding is commendable. Let us stand together, supporting our Chief in her ongoing efforts to effect positive change and create a more inclusive and progressive city.

Unlike the leaker of the survey, we are happy to put our names to this letter in support of Chief Shawna Spowart.

Kelly Bergeron
Nick Seebruch
Michele Allinotte

Editor’s note: While the open letter refers to “local media,” Cornwall Newswatch has not run any stories on the chief’s absence.