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RNC workplace review coming, says justice minister

·4 min read
Justice Minister John Hogan said the review was, in part, sparked by allegations against RNC officers made last summer. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Justice Minister John Hogan said the review was, in part, sparked by allegations against RNC officers made last summer. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

The Department of Justice has announced an independent review of the workplace culture and governance of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Justice Minister John Hogan said the review, which is anticipated to take about six months, was established after media reports about "issues" within the RNC.

"If people don't have faith in our police here, it's a problem," he said on Tuesday. "We want to make sure that we get to the bottom of it to discover if there are issues that need to be addressed and, if there are, they'll be addressed by the department and by the chief and by the RNCA as well."

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association (RNCA) is an association which represents 380 non-commissioned officers of the RNC.

Hogan said the review will be conducted by Harriet Lewis, a lawyer with a background in mediation and governance, and will involve both civilian employees of all positions and officers of all ranks.

The announcement comes months after St. John's sex abuse litigator Lynn Moore revealed that nine women had contacted her alleging sexual assault by RNC officers. At that time, Moore also said there were reports of inappropriate workplace conduct within the RNC.

Hogan said those allegations were part of what prompted the review, although he clarified that the review isn't an investigation into officer misconduct. He said there's formal mechanisms for dealing with complaints about individual officers.

"We're going to proceed with this workplace situation to make sure we can improve on any issues that exist at the RNC right now," he said.

Hogan said the review will also focus on gaps in mental health care for police officers.

He said he's spoken to RNC interim chief Patrick Roche and the association representing RNC officers, and both were in favour of the review.

"Everyone is on board to make sure that this review was done properly and as thoroughly as possible," he said.

Hogan said the review is not connected with the search for a new permanent police chief, which is still ongoing.

Reached on Tuesday, the RNCA had no comment on the announcement. CBC News has also asked the RNC for comment.

Review must be transparent: Opposition

On Wednesday, PC justice critic Helen Conway Ottenheimer said the review is a good starting point, but she would like to see it go further and include a "comprehensive investigation" into allegations made against RNC officers.

"We need to look at that to see is this just a group of officers that are involved or is this a systemic problem that needs to be addressed," she said.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Conway Ottenheimer called for the review to probe sexist and patriarchal attitudes within the organization, to look at leadership, and to examine the training of new recruits.

She said the Opposition wants government to publicly release the terms of reference, and said she's concerned public trust in the RNC is waning.

She called for the review to begin as soon as possible.

"The police themselves will benefit as well, because when they have the confidence of the public, then they're able to do the difficult job that they have to do," she said. "When they don't have that confidence, it makes their jobs that much harder."

Systemic issues

The announcement about the RNC workplace review comes while an independent report on strengthening civilian oversight of the province's police services is already in progress.

That report is coming from the First Voice Working Group on Police Oversight, which was established in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The group includes six organizations representing marginalized communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and other stakeholders.

Caitlin Urquhart
Caitlin Urquhart

Caitlin Urquhart, co-chair of the Working Group, welcomed the review of RNC workplace culture and governance practices.

"The RNC has systemic issues, as do most police forces across the country," she said.

"It is essential that we be looking at them both on this sort of granular level, like this [RNC workplace culture] review, but also on the sort of broader governance level in the way that the First Voice Working Group on Police Oversight is doing."

She said the more narrow focus of the RNC workplace culture and governance review could complement the broader approach taken by the First Voice Working Group

"We hope that essentially the two reports will be made public and will provide ultimately complementary recommendations for government and the RNC to implement," she said.

Urquhart said the First Voice Working Group plans to release a draft discussion paper for public comment later this fall.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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