Calgary Police Service rife with sexual harassment, bullying, says ex-HR director

Former HR director claims she herself was victim of harassment and bullying at service

Calgary Police Service rife with sexual harassment, bullying, says ex-HR director

A former human resources director of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) has claimed that the workplace is rife with harassment, bullying and discrimination – and she experienced it firsthand.

In the two years she served as the head of the HR department at the service, Angela Whitney had men stand in front of her and block her while speaking in a meeting, she said in a Global News report. Sworn police members also showed disrespectful behaviour when she addressed HR issues, she said.

“Whenever I had to deliver messages – discipline, expectations and grievances, suitability hearings, investigations, things like that – it was very common that the men who were receiving messages from me or whatever it would be would intentionally stand up and stand over me,” she said in the report.

All these happened because she’s a woman and she was a civilian in the service, Whitney believes, according to the report.

“I was body shamed. I’ve had men scream-spitting (while) yelling, just spit coming out from just screaming at me,” she said. “There’s so much that I experienced.”

HR and civilian members

And because the Professional Standards Section independently investigates and disciplines sworn members, the human resources department was only able to act on cases involving civilian members during her term there.

“I exited a number of individuals for things like ageism, sexism, discriminatory behaviour, bullying, harassing misuse of systems – meaning using police systems to look up information – etc. Those individuals would get exited if you were a civilian, but if you are an officer, absolutely not,” Whitney said in the Global News report.

Whitney held the top HR post at CPS from June 2019 to July 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile.

More than three in four women across the world have experienced ageism throughout their careers, according to a previous report.

Sex toys thrown in workplace

These kinds of experiences – and worse – were commonplace at the workplace, the former HR director at the CPS said in the Global News report.

In the report, Whitney noted that she once worked on a file where subordinates allege that they had sex toys thrown at them and pushed in their direction.

She got into a verbal disagreement with the chief of police about how that kind of behaviour created a psychologically unsafe workplace, she said.

And in the service, especially among women, there was a “pervasive” culture of not speaking up within the police service, according to the report.

Nearly half (47%) of women and 31% of men report experiencing inappropriate sexualized behaviours in a workplace setting, according to a previous report from Statistics Canada (StatCan).

Whitney also received complaints from LGBTQ2+ officers who felt discriminated against while in the workplace.

“But again, not a lot of mechanisms to address this type of behaviour,” she said in the Global News report. “And so I would have to work with these complainants and try to help navigate the situation because we would not remove the offenders. We would not discipline the offenders and we would expect everything to just function as usual, and that wouldn’t be the case.”

‘A safe and healthy workplace’

On Wednesday at a Calgary Police Commission meeting, Neufeld admitted that CPS continues to face the issue of toxic workplace, even though it has made some progress.

“The process is very, very hard. These issues manifest themselves differently in different organizations, and across different business lines,” Neufeld said in the Global News report.

“I think in the past we were not adequately resourced in human resources. We did not have the right mix of sworn versus civilian. Although good progress has been made, it’s a pernicious issue and it’s a challenging issue. And so I think what really matters is that we create a safe and healthy workplace.”

The Calgary Police Commission is aware of her allegations at CPS, but it has not received the allegations formally, so is unable to act on them, chair Shawn Cornett said, according to the report.

Since August 2023, any Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member who has experienced sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or any other form of discrimination based on sex/gender while performing their duties have been allowed to file complaints through the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

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