Lethbridge police chief addresses Monday’s surprise resignation

Chief of Lethbridge police addresses surprise resignation
WATCH: Chief Rob Davis of the Lethbridge Police Service addressed the media after the surprise announcement of his resignation Monday. Danica Ferris reports.

Chief Rob Davis of the Lethbridge Police Service addressed the media Tuesday, one day after his resignation was the surprise announcement of a city council meeting.

Davis has been the top dog with the LPS since January 2015 — with a contract signed until 2021 — but he has chosen to pursue an opportunity in his home province.

“An opportunity presented itself to compete for the chief of the Brantford Police Service,” said Davis. “I grew up in that area and there [are] some unique challenges right now in southern Ontario, with respect to the drug crisis that moved from west to east, guns and gangs, violence — just my skill set, my experience, I felt that I could help be an impact on those.

“It’s been a great experience in Lethbridge, and a lot of what I’ve experienced here and learned from I can apply back in Ontario. It boils down to, you know, that is home, and it was [an] opportunity to get back to that area.”

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READ MORE: Lethbridge police chief Rob Davis announces resignation

Davis addressed some of his accomplishments in his 4.5 years as Lethbridge’s police chief, with an emphasis on programs that were seen as innovative.

“We broke the status quo,” Davis said.

“We rolled out The Watch, we rolled out the [community peace officers]. We created The Watch to give the community an opportunity to be part of helping make the city safe, and that’s huge. [It] goes back to the fundamentals of policing, that the police are the people and the people are the police.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge’s The Watch program hits the streets, sees positive reviews

Davis said The Watch program is his proudest accomplishment during his time as chief.

“The community engagement, I didn’t expect it,” he said. “I knew we would have some interest based on community surveys that we had done but I did not expect the level of interest and support that we received as we started to roll [it] out.”
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“[It] completely overwhelmed me in a positive way and that’s great as a police chief to see the community step up and be part of the solution. [It’s] huge.”

But Davis’ tenure was not without its fair share of negative headlines and controversy.

In March, results from a Lethbridge Police Association survey, which was taken by 70 per cent of officers, were leaked. Almost one-third of respondents said they had been bullied or intimidated by Davis, and 54 per cent said their coworkers had been bullied or intimidated.

Additionally, only 10 per cent said they believe Davis was an honest and effective communicator with Lethbridge residents and officers.

“With respect to the LPA Morale Survey and that stuff, I mean, the public need not think too far back, it was a tactic on the former chief,” said Davis.

“If you look across the country, it’s a tactic being used fairly regularly — not just in policing — if you look at some of the academic institutions across the country and some other professions… it’s a tactic of the times. People don’t like change, and as a leader in an organization, you have to make tough decisions, and unfortunately, that may be a consequence sometimes.”

READ MORE: Survey finds members of Lethbridge Police Service unhappy with leadership

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While Davis didn’t speak to concerns about morale issues within LPS, the president of the LPA said Tuesday that his resignation is a chance for a fresh start for officers.

“This is potentially an opportunity to mend some relationships and rebuild our organization internally,” said Jay McMillan. “I think we have to view it that way, and it’s a good opportunity to do just that.”

McMillan believes that a morale shift should be the No. 1 priority for the yet-to-be-named incoming chief.

“I think probably the first thing that most people would note — whether they’ve been paying attention to what’s been playing out publicly or those who are involved internally in our organization — I would argue that whatever we do, we have to do it together,” McMillan said.

“Our organization has to heal a little bit internally, and we have to mend some relationships and find a way to progress together.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge Police Commission to review findings of police association survey

In the LPA survey, 12 per cent of officers said they believed Davis had responded appropriately to the drug crisis — an issue that will also be at the forefront when he begins in Brantford.

“When I talk to police leaders that I’m friends with in Ontario, the opioid crisis — starting with fentanyl — it migrated from west to east,” said Davis. “They’re sitting where we were roughly a year ago.

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“When we look at the dynamics in Lethbridge and what we experienced as the opioid crisis hit our city, incredible lessons. And again, [it’s] scalable. The city of Brantford is very similar in size, the police service is very similar in size, the dynamics are very similar in size, so a lot of lessons can be shared.”

Davis will have a couple more months in Lethbridge before he has the opportunity to share what he’s learned with the city of Brantford. His final day with LPS is Sept. 30.

The Lethbridge Police Commission will be responsible for hiring his successor, and they are expected to announce a timeline for that hiring shortly.