#MeToo, but #NotYou …. by Kelly Donovan

By  | February 1, 2018 | 1 Comment | Filed under: Waterloo Police class action lawsuit
January 31, 2018


Women and men all over the world have been inspired by the recent movement of floods of people finding their voices and the confidence to speak up about abuses they have endured or are enduring.  If you work in the entertainment industry or politics, you are a victim; you are supported, heard and believed. Not only that, your courage is celebrated by entities such as Time Magazine.  Here in Ontario, if you work for a police service, you are not celebrated, you are punished.  Punished for waiting to come forward, punished for exposing the “internal dealings” of police services, and punished for “stabbing your fellow brothers and sisters in the back.”

How do I know this? Because I see it. It’s happening right under everyone’s noses, and no one seems to care.

Why don’t more police officers come forward?

IF a police officer (male or female) comes forward with allegations about treatment by members at their police service, they have weighed the risks in favour of coming forward. Those risks include:

  • Financial cost to fight for their rights
  • Loss of support from colleagues
  • Increased stress and mental strain
  • Embarrassment of media coverage and strain on family life
  • Reprisal, by way of increased abuse and/or charges

The individual coming forward has decided that upholding their integrity and internal set of ethics and morals is more important than their reputation amongst peers and financial stability.  They also know that when the muscles of the police hierarchy are flexed in retaliation, they will be charged.

In the ongoing class action suit filed against the Waterloo Regional Police Service, the service’s Chief swore in an affidavit that police officers commit misconduct if they fail to report sexual harassment.  In any other industry, are we saying to those who make reports of sexual harassment, “thank you for your courage, now because you did not immediately have the strength to make the report while you were being violated, we will now charge you”?  Why are we allowing the very system who abused these women to continue to threaten them and cause them more pain and turmoil?

All things considered, why would anyone in policing ever speak up about internal issues? When I came forward with allegations of corruption during internal investigations, I was threatened with charges and taken out of my job.

More recently, Toronto Police DID charge a female Sergeant who reported sexual harassment and filed a Human Rights complaint, because she did not immediately report the harassment at the time she was sent the ‘Anaconda’ penis photo, (an obvious act of “victim-blaming” and reprisal, but permitted nonetheless). Will the Toronto Police charge all of the other members of the private “WhatsApp” chat group who also saw the picture?

In another Toronto Police case, an officer has had to spend over $100,000 of her own money to have her case heard by the Human Rights Tribunal, only to shed light on the “poisoned work environment” for women at the Service, and her fight is far from over.  In this case, the officer knows she will never recoup enough money to even cover 1/4 of her legal bill.  This officer reported the conduct to several people at Toronto Police, at one point she had a Superintendent tell her he would “deal with it” instead of reporting it formally.  Will this Superintendent also be charged by Toronto Police for Neglect of Duty?  Or will he retire, like Superintendent Pat Dietrich of the Waterloo force after he was named in the class action?

This is about something much larger than money, folks.  This is about culture, attitudes, and the dire need to rock this institution to its core before it self-destructs.

Why are the women of the Waterloo Regional Police Service asking for $167,000,000 in their class action lawsuit?  Let’s think about that for a minute.  Police are paid good salaries, some Chiefs of Police are paid more than the Premier of Ontario, to ensure the safety and security of ALL persons.  The public trust that the police are doing their job because they see arrests being made and read press releases authored or approved by the Chief.  We live in a time of accountability and transparency, so we must be getting the full picture, right?

Well, when I chose to go public with my Report in July, 2017, I did so because I had investigated just how often that is not the case.  Our laws around transparency and disclosure by police services are so out of date and inadequate that police services have been able to use the Oath of Secrecy as a way to silence victims, silence witnesses, and allow total autonomy of leadership.  What was once an Oath to protect members of the public from ever having their interactions with police exposed, has evolved into a breeding ground for internal corruption and selective suppression of information.  No one can tell me I’m wrong; I have lived it.  And the actions the Waterloo Regional Police Service took against me cannot be disputed.

So, what if the women of the class action are telling the truth? What if Heather McWilliam, Toronto Police, is telling the truth? What if Sgt. Jessica McInnis, Toronto Police, is telling the truth? There are currently 2,400 reports of sexual harassment/discrimination at the RCMP, and this is only 15-months after the RCMP Commissioner gave a tearful apology to the women of the RCMP when their $100M class action lawsuit settled.

Here is the multi-million dollar question that no politicians have been willing to address:

If the Region of Waterloo taxpayers are paying $161M for police services that are not being provided in accordance with the principles of policing in Ontario, then is that $161M money well spent? 

Perhaps that’s the entire point of this class action.   Public trust in police has been dependent on what the public see and hear from their only sources of information, and with accessibility of technology and freedom of information legislation, the public are seeing more and losing trust.  The inevitable cannot be prevented by politicians and police leaders continuing to use powers available to them to suppress information.

If the Waterloo Regional Police Service and the Waterloo Regional Police Association are relying on a technicality to avoid any public disclosure of wrongdoing (when the matter of jurisdiction is heard this coming June), and they lose, where will public trust be then?

Whether it is the civil court system, the Human Rights Tribunal or simply rogue officers choosing to speak out, the truth will be heard.  Anyone who believes otherwise needs to give their head a shake and take a long, hard look in the mirror.  Times are changing, who are the police leaders who will take us into 2018 and beyond with poise and honour?

I can say one thing with absolute certainty… Comments such as those below, have no place in 2018, and no place in a policing community where the contributions of female officers are celebrated and encouraged.

The time to deny is over, and the time to discuss constructive, positive changes is now. Policies need to be revised, attitudes need to change, facts need to be acknowledged and some people will need to go. It’s about the profession and trust in the institution.

Hopefully this blog post will bolster the already growing movement of citizens who have had enough lip service and want the actions of their police to reflect their values.

The best leadership advice I ever received was on the rugby pitch; it’s not personal.







One Response to #MeToo, but #NotYou …. by Kelly Donovan

  1. agmarshall@rogers.com'
    Alan Marshall February 1, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Up is down, black is white, east is west. In an environment of grossly unequal power and authority and without accountability, those in charge say and do exactly what they want. There is not and never has been democracy in workplaces in Ontario (& likely everywhere). My experiences in Ontario have shown me that the majority of oversight bodies, investigations and sometimes even courts are more about process and appearances. With enough money and authority behind you it is possible to maintain a bubble from within which you and your fellow travellors can produce “fake news” forever. Even when ordered outside the bubble to explain your behaviour and actions, your money and status will carry you an incredibly long way. School Boards, Police Services, Hospitals and other public institutions are especially susceptible to their own self-serving God complex. Large enough private corporations also buy credibility when they need it. In the U.S. it is well understood that large, private corporations can “capture” their government regulators. Here in Ontario the same corporations who donate to and lobby provincial parties then turn around and take the Ontario Ministry of Environment to court at the drop of a hat. They know how badly underfunded the M.O.E. are and that they can not sustain long legal battles. It’s the same thing with the Regional Police using Police Service Act charges against officers who are in the doghouse. Anytime individual finances are up against taxpayer funded large organizations; justice becomes a joke.
    The public trust in our Waterloo Regional Police has been broken. The problem is that now we will turn to the same old group of politicians in power who have permitted this mess to fester for decades. They have a vested interest in saving their own butts and in minimizing the damage including the loss of public trust. What they are horrified about is if that loss of public trust turns in their direction. Yes retirements will happen. So will resignations within the Police Force. Maybe the odd sacrificial lamb will be thrown to the wolves. Let’s see exactly how may Police Services Board members get tossed. More importantly is how many regional politicians including the Chair will either retire, resign or get turfed either before or after the municipal election in the fall. Will senior provincial politicians in charge of the Ministry “supervising” our police get tossed either by the party or the electorate? Regional and provincial politicians is where the buck stops. That is where this needs to go.

    You are making history. Unfortunately it is slow, exhausting and doesn’t care about right and wrong. Your efforts and the efforts of all those involved in the class action lawsuit are and will help everybody in the long run.

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