March 16, 2018 7:40 am
Updated: March 16, 2018 4:44 pm

Both men and women alleging workplace harassment at London Police Service

The front of London Police Headquarters, September 6, 2017. (Matthew Trevithick/AM980)

(Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL)
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The London Police Service is the latest workplace faced with allegations of harassment, according to an advocate whose organization has become the ‘go-to’ for civic employees who don’t feel protected by corporate policies and procedures.

Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, says she’s received between 5-6 messages from both uniform and civilian police members, which deputy chief Steve Williams calls “troubling and concerning.”

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The complaints are from both men and women, with some alleging sexual harassment, Walker explained.

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“Almost every call we’ve received over the past week have been from individuals sharing their experiences of harassment, abuse, and or retaliation,” she explained.

“It rings true for almost every single call we’ve received from the beginning, no matter where they’re calling from.”

Williams spoke with 980 CFPL’s The Craig Needles Show Friday morning, and committed to looking into allegations, provided they’re brought forward to the police force.

“I don’t know the exact details of these allegations,” he explained.

“If there’s something happening beneath the surface, which has been suggested – that there’s something systemic – then that’s something we need to have a look at. Now, without having specifics of these allegations, it’s really difficult to categorize it like that.”

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Williams also called the existing harassment reporting procedure, which gets between 1-5 complaints each year, “robust.”

He said he first became aware of allegations submitted to the London Abused Women’s Centre Thursday, and he didn’t believe they’d been previously reported through the police service’s own mechanisms.

“It’s a challenge that we have, and that I would suggest any organization has, in making or fostering an environment where people do feel comfortable bringing those concerns forward.”

The police service operates separately from other civic departments, and is overseen by its own board.

A tidal wave of complaints, which Walker called “unprecedented,” started swelling Monday after city council spent nearly 2.5 hours behind closed doors during a rare special meeting related to employment. A few hours later, the city issued a statement condemning harassment.

City manager Martin Hayward told 980 CFPL Thursday the city will be conducting a third party review that’ll examine both the handful of complaints the city has received directly, and the city’s policies and procedures.

Walker has emphasized she wants organizational apologies backed with a deep review of workplace culture. She also condemned the city’s decision not to review leadership changes.

As of Thursday morning, Walker said she’d received more than 70 complaints from city hall staff. The London Abused Women’s Centre has since stopped keeping count.

 

 

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