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Fredericton Police Chief answers to concerns over five suspended officers

WATCH ABOVE: Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch faced questions Thursday after five officers were suspended with pay for various offences while off duty. Global’s Laura Brown reports.

FREDERICTON – There is a shared sense of disappointment in the ranks of Fredericton police and the public over the suspension of five officers, the force’s chief said Thursday.

Leanne Fitch spent the better part of an hour answering questions Thursday to address concerns over the recent suspensions of Fredericton officers.

“This is unusual,” she said. “I’ve been policing here for 30 years and, not that I can say with absolute certainty, but I don’t recall ever having this many people suspended at once.”

The force is made up of about 100 members and it answers to over 25,000 service calls per year.

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The suspensions began over a year ago, when an officer was charged with domestic assault and suspended with pay.

That case is now going through arbitration.

In June, the New Brunswick Police Commission said it received a complaint from Fitch about one of her officers over the alleged misappropriation of funds from the New Brunswick Police Association.

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In another case, a member was allegedly caught shoplifting in Maine.

Two more were suspended after being arrested for impaired driving. One of those incidents happened Sunday.

All members were suspended with pay as per the N.B. Police Act.

READ MORE: Fredericton chief files complaint against city police officer

Fitch said all of the officers were off duty at the time of the alleged infractions. But she did confirm that some of the officers are repeat offenders and have records of discipline on file.

“People have lives outside of policing and lives are complicated, life can get messy so I don’t know what their motivation is other than they have found themselves in trouble,” she said. “And it’s my job to deal with officers when they are in trouble.”

But she said she also feels like this isn’t an indication of a problem within the force, and that she plans to “stay the course.”

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  • Fredericton Police Force currently has five suspended officers of 100
  • Halifax Regional Police Force currently has three suspended officers of 513 officers

Commission looks to review, change the N.B. Police Act

Fitch did address complaints that have been made regarding the officers’ suspensions with pay.

“I think some of the fundamental changes that we are trying to make in the Police Act would be more palatable to the officers, to taxpayers, to council, to your senior managers,” she said.

Mayor Brad Woodside said that aspect of the New Brunswick Police Act must be reviewed and changed.

“You got a problem with somebody who was caught drinking and driving or whatever it happens to be. Suspend them. Without pay,” he said to reporters after the news conference.

The New Brunswick Police Commission, a group that represents the public when it comes to law enforcement, is looking at that and over 30 other concerns they have with the act.

Executive Director Steve Roberge said the commission is drawing up a paper looking areas the province’s police act needs to be reviewed, including that officers are suspended with pay.

“If an officer is suspended without pay and they are cleared in the end, then the organization owes that officer the return of not only their salary, but their benefits,” he said.

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Roberge said he wants to see the Public Safety Minister reconvene a police act review committee.

With files from The Canadian Press

 

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