Lethbridge’s interim chief of police is speaking out following the dismissal of a complaint lodged against him by an officer in 2019.
The complaint, filed by current Lethbridge Police Service member Sgt. Jason Moulton, was filed on Aug. 7, 2019 and cited “tyrannical and bullying behaviour over the course of nearly a year.”
Moulton’s complaint was against then Deputy Chief Scott Woods and former Chief Rob Davis, prior to Davis’ resignation and Woods being appointed interim chief on Sep. 15, 2019.
Moulton has filed multiple misconduct complaints against Woods.
The police commission said it wasn’t within the scope of its duties to investigate the complaint and that a police chief should investigate complaints against a deputy chief, which would mean Woods would have to investigate himself.
Subsequently, the commission dismissed the bullying and harassment allegation against Woods, and Moulton appealed the decision to the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB).
The LERB sent it back to the commission to investigate in April.
In a statement to Global News, Simon Griffiths, the chair of the Lethbridge Police Commission, said the commission “followed the process according to the Police Act” en route to dismissing the allegations on Wednesday night.
Following the decision Wednesday night, Woods released a statement through LPS on Thursday.
“I am gratified at the recent dismissal by the Lethbridge Police Commission of the last remaining complained filed against me by Sgt. Jason Moulton,” Woods said in the release.
“I am pleased that the commission found the complaint to have been frivolous and further lacking in any basis for a referral to the Minister of Justice for investigation. However, I am not terribly surprised at this outcome. A related complaint made against me by Sgt. Moulton was investigated by two separate external agencies (the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team and the chief of police of the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service.
“In the course of those investigations, the following language was used to describe Sgt. Moulton’s allegations… did not occur… sheer fiction… no evidence.”
Woods added he hopes that with the dismissal of the complaint, “the Lethbridge Police Service will be allowed to move forward in our efforts to cultivate bias-free policing in our community, without the distraction of groundless complaints against its leadership.”
But Lethbridge Police Association president Jay McMillan said he doesn’t believe the dismissal will be the end of the matter.
“It’s a bit muddled, and I’m not sure how comfortable the police commission is with what they are entitled to do and what they are obligated to do,” McMillan added. “But ultimately, it is their responsibility to ensure that a proper, fair, impartial investigation is conducted.
“Whether or not they have the skills and the tools to do that themselves remains to be seen, but that doesn’t preclude them from outsourcing that to people who know how to conduct such investigations.”
Griffiths said the commission did do its due diligence in a process that included requesting additional information about the complaint from Moulton, which was received on June 6.
McMillan told Global News that he doesn’t believe the work done by the commission can be classified as an investigation, which was what it was instructed by the LERB to undertake.
“There are options available, and I expect one of which — the one that will likely be followed — would be an appeal back to the LERB,” he said.
McMillan said he believes the situation could be setting a problematic precedent for LPS members, one that could impact whether future officers come forward with complaints.
“When you have a circumstance where a member, or even a potential victim, is embarrassed or shamed in sort of a public manner, it can act to sort of preclude them from coming forward with other concerns,” he said.
“And it can certainly preclude other members from wishing to step forward.”
McMillan said he believes steps need to be taken to ensure that future complaints by officers are handled in a more organized, transparent manner.
“Police associations across the province have actually petitioned for changes to these types of processes for over a decade, and changes to the Police Act that would mandate an increased level of accountability and transparency,” he said.
The LPS said Woods would not be made available for an interview on the matter.