Lethbridge’s interim chief of police has responded to allegations of toxicity within the the city’s police service.
On Monday, local media outlet Bridge City News published a story containing allegations made by an anonymous former member of the force that referred to the culture in the Lethbridge Police Service as “broken.”
Interim chief Scott Woods said in a statement on Tuesday that he was aware of the story, “which has alleged a high degree of dysfunction within the Lethbridge Police Service.”
“The manner and tone of this coverage casts aspersions not just on me serving as chief of police, but on the vast majority of the people who serve the city of Lethbridge as a part of the police service,” Woods said.
“Accordingly, I have decided that it is important to not let those aspersions go unanswered. The honour and integrity of the service and all the individuals who work here demand nothing less.”
Woods admitted there is “brokenness within the service,” on some level, but said that brokenness comes from “a small minority working within the organization who are more concerned with protecting their own interests and influence than maintaining the ideals of serving the public.”
“When this small group of individuals is held to account for their own misconduct, or perhaps denied a workplace request, they often lash out and accuse others of being bullies,” Woods said.
The reaction also comes after news the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board recently asked the Lethbridge Police Commission to review a 2019 complaint against Woods made by an LPS member after its disciplinary processes came into question.
The complainant, an officer still on the force, filed a misconduct complaint against Woods, who was serving as deputy chief of police service at the time, alleging tyrannical and bullying behaviour from both Woods and then-chief Rob Davis.
Woods was eventually appointed interim chief following Davis’ departure.
In an interview with Global News last week, president of the Lethbridge Police Association Jay McMillan said that the Lethbridge Police Commission believed it wasn’t within its scope of duties to investigate the complaint.
“That decision was appealed to the Law Enforcement Review Board, who sent it back to the commission saying, ‘In this case, it should, in fact, be your responsibility to investigate,'” McMillan explained.
The Lethbridge Police Commission said a police chief should investigate complaints against a deputy chief, which meant Woods would have to investigate himself.
Subsequently, the commission dismissed the bullying and harassment allegation against him.
In Tuesday’s statement, Woods said: “I, and a continuous line of chiefs serving before me, have tried to address this toxicity and bring reforms to the corporate culture. We have met with varying degrees of success.
“It certainly does not help when anti-reform elements can run to friends in the media, often with anonymity, to uncritically air what amounts to their personal grievances,” he said.
Woods said he knew this would be one of the challenges he’d face when he took the interim chief position, and said he believes it will be “a constant challenge for as long as I have the privilege of serving.”
Woods said he won’t be providing any other comment on the subject.
The review board has put the matter back in the hands of the commission, which is in the midst of its review.
— With files from Eloise Therien