Chief Hansen says internal investigations helped improve SPS work environment

Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen answers questions from the media via Zoom. 3 February 2021.

Sarnia’s police chief believes openly investigating complaints within the service has already improved the work environment.

Chief Norm Hansen made the comment after a third-party investigator found that an employee of the service was not harassed and was not a victim of workplace violence.

On Wednesday, Chief Hansen answered questions from the media about the investigation, and talked about the report’s finding that “pervasive gossip” by officers and civilians has created a toxic work environment.

Hansen said he supposes some gossip in a workplace is natural and expected.

“I was not aware of the extent of the gossip until the spring of last year. The nature of the allegations is in part what caused some of the gossip and was a target of some of the gossip,” said Hansen. “Confidentiality prevents us from disclosing all of the information and facts surrounding any allegations, therefore, there is much conversation and speculation. It was unprofessional and disappointing.”

Hansen said moving forward, senior management, human resources (HR) and the association will work together to refine current policies while they work to broaden and strengthen their code of conduct and improve the culture in the workplace.

He added that the return-to-work plan for the subject employee is ongoing, and that the service and HR have made several efforts that are continuing to explore options for a safe return.

“However, we couldn’t complete this work in its entirety until we received the findings and recommendations of this investigative report. As for when an employee will return, it is our understanding at this time they have not been cleared to return to work at this time — this goes for any employee that’s on any type of leave.”

Hansen was asked about the current atmosphere among employees within the service.

“I’m proud of our officers and civilian staff. I think they’ve continued to do excellent work throughout these investigations and I think they will continue to do so — I don’t think this will affect them in a negative way.”