Email to the Editor: Why was police board oblivious to leadership problems?

I submit the following free from any bias or prejudice.

I recently read various media releases concerning the Cornwall police chief going on leave, the police board chair resigning, and subsequent to that article, published results of a Cornwall Police Association survey that was recently conducted.

The survey indicated this is a workforce at risk. It indicated the CPS culture is negative and destructive, that morale is low and people do not want to come to work, with 40 per cent off sick or on holidays or away for other reasons, as people work in fear of senior staff.

The survey indicates little confidence in the chief, who displays little leadership ability and uses fear, intimidation and power to obtain respect, in contrast to the 86 per cent indicating confidence in the deputy chief.

One could ask how the board could be so oblivious to turbulent times at the CPS, when it’s required by law under the Police Act of Ontario to annually conduct a review of the chief’s performance?

Why did the board chair person resign along with the secretary? The people of this community have a right to know.

Robert Peel once said, “the police are the public and the public are the police.”

I suggest that this is an unfortunate situation that has not just occurred over the past six months, but over the past several board terms.

The CPS has had questionable high-level leaders in the past, and most people would expect that those past negative experiences would mean a more cautious review of candidates applying for positions/promotions.

Mayor Bernadette Clement at police chief Shawna Spowart’s inauguration said she was proud be a part of the announcement for the first-ever female chief in Cornwall. The media went on to note she’s the first chief who’s an open member of the LGBT community. Board chair Glen Grant praised Spowart’s appointment, stating “she has demonstrated strong leadership skills through her many years of service.”

Much of this is extraneous. A person should be promoted because of highly demonstrated skills and abilities, not because of sexual orientation, or that which would create a historical event.

Did the board of the day apply genuine effort by verifying or at least conducting psychological testing on the candidate(s) in order to determine if the candidate(s) possessed the aptitude for the position, or verified the candidate(s) work history?

It may have prevented a large number of employees’ lives – professionally and personally – along with their families – from the anguish suffered. The men and women who have sworn to protect and serve Cornwall would be happier and more motivated to carry out assigned duties, translating into a better-served community.

Instead, they are working in a fear-filled environment, inflicted upon them by some senior managers abusing authority and power, resulting in workers, for their own survival, looking for different employment or booking off sick.

The blame for this rests solely at the feet of the board, both past and current.

Brendon F. Wells
Inspector (Ret.)
Cornwall Police Service