Cornwall Police Service (CPS) issue statement
The Cornwall Police Services Board (“Board”) is aware of various reports surfacing in Cornwall area media outlets regarding the results of a survey commissioned by the Cornwall Police Association (“CPA”). As the civilian oversight body responsible for overseeing policing in the Cornwall community pursuant to the Police Services Act, the Board takes seriously the issues being raised and is in the process of working with the CPA, the Cornwall Police Service Senior Officers’ Association (“SOA”), senior leadership and external advisors to discuss and take any necessary and appropriate steps to address these issues. It is the Board’s position and duty not to speak publicly on internal personnel matters involving specific individuals. Accordingly, the Board has no further comment at this time.
Editor Note – Due to the length of Letters to The Editor on this subject, they can be read here:
Cornwall Chief of Police Shawna Spowart Currently On Leave
To the editor,
I submit the following free from any bias or prejudice.
I recently read various media releases concerning the Cornwall police chief going on leave, the police board chair resigning, and subsequent to that article, published results of a Cornwall Police Association survey that was recently conducted.
The survey indicated this is a workforce at risk. It indicated the CPS culture is negative and destructive, that morale is low and people do not want to come to work, with 40 per cent off sick or on holidays or away for other reasons, as people work in fear of senior staff.
The survey indicates little confidence in the chief, who displays little leadership ability and uses fear, intimidation and power to obtain respect, in contrast to the 86 per cent indicating confidence in the deputy chief.
One could ask how the board could be so oblivious to turbulent times at the CPS, when it’s required by law under the Police Act of Ontario to annually conduct a review of the chief’s performance?
Why did the board chair person resign along with the secretary? The people of this community have a right to know.
Robert Peel once said, “the police are the public and the public are the police.’’
I suggest that this is an unfortunate situation that has not just occurred over the past six months, but over the past several board terms.
The CPS has had questionable high-level leaders in the past, and most people would expect that those past negative experiences would mean a more cautious review of candidates applying for positions/promotions.
Mayor Bernadette Clement at police chief Shawna Spowart’s inauguration said she was proud be a part of the announcement for the first-ever female chief in Cornwall. The media went to say on to note she’s the first chief who’s an open member of the LGBT community. Board chair Glen Grant praised Spowart’s appointment, stating “she has demonstrated strong leadership skills through her many years of service.’’
Much of this is extraneous. A person should be promoted because of highly demonstrated skills and abilities, not because of sexual orientation, or that which would create a historical event.
Did the board of the day apply genuine effort by verifying or at least conducting psychological testing on the candidate(s) in order to determine if the candidate(s) possessed the aptitude for the position, or verified the candidate(s) work history?
It may have prevented a large number of employees’ lives – professionally and personally – along with their families – from the anguish suffered. The men and women who have sworn to protect and serve Cornwall would be happier and more motivated to carry out assigned duties, translating into a better-served community.
Instead, they are working in a fear-filled environment, inflicted upon them by some senior managers abusing authority and power, resulting in workers , for their own survival, looking for different employment or booking off sick.
The blame for this rests solely at the feet of the board, both past and current.
B. F. WELLS
Chief Spowart, problems at CPS and problems at City Council
Dear members of council, members of the Police Services Board (I was only able to obtain contact information for one lay member), Solicitor General Kerzner and Attorney General Downey;
I have been critical of the Cornwall Police Service and of the institution of policing for some time. So, it is a difficult step for me to advocate for Chief Shawna Spowart.
Everyone knows Chief Spowart is the first female chief at CPS. She is also openly gay. During her term, she has been leading the large EDI initiative at CPS. An initiative that arose in the flaming ashes of the former Police Association President claiming publicly, in the aftermath of the world watching George Floyd’s murder, that there was no racism in policing. Former Chief Aikman had to take immediate action to correct that statement.
When I read the articles (linked below) in the Standard Freeholder on June 9th, June 11th and Councillor McIntosh’s column in the Seaway News (attached here) on June 14th, I was angry, frustrated and incredulous. I added my signature to an open letter to local media (https://theseeker.ca/2023/06/lte-dont-criticize-the-chief-without-considering-the-full-context/?no_cache=1686849358&fbclid=IwAR3Nu9z6MQSU9MHTW2Vkf9Kp8jl16X6nLuco43-_Gko6hZ58er_vHqwBsk0).
The Freeholder articles are not journalism. There was no investigation. My initial instinct was that it was an attempt to “take down” Chief Spowart by members of the force who have issues with her identity as a woman, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and as a leader of EDI initiatives that are no doubt causing ripples in the force.
I have now been contacted by a whistleblower from inside CPS who outlines that this is part of a long-term campaign of harassment, fueled by homophobia, misogyny and racism against Chief Spowart. I am enclosing two letters from whistle blowers inside CPS who have asked me to share these letters. They wish to remain anonymous. They fear retribution for speaking out.
The letters show this is a deliberate, planned set up of Chief Spowart, and that this pattern has been played out at least four times already in other jurisdictions in Ontario, in almost exactly the same way, by the same research company. The whistleblower says it appears this particular research company has the support of the Police Associations of Ontario and there seems to be a “playbook” for taking down Chiefs who are not white men. Three women and one Indigenous chief are down, and it looks like sights are set on Chief Spowart.
The campaign against Chief Spowart, a gay woman, leads me to question the ability of CPS to respond to ongoing harassment and false police reports against members of the LBGTQ+ community in Cornwall. I am aware that on several occasions, CPS has not responded appropriately to this harassment. But that isn’t my story to tell.
The Cornwall Police Service has a problem, a lot of problems. But it isn’t Chief Spowart, and terminating her or forcing her out or allowing this disgusting campaign to continue are not the solution. The problems at the CPS are homophobia, racism and misogyny.
Cornwall and the world is changing. Institutions need to change. We need to become a more diverse and vibrant community, and as long as a police force exists, it needs to be working towards meeting the needs of the community it serves. Letting this coup happen at CPS does not serve the needs of CPS, Council or of our community. The boy’s club of policing no longer serves us. Change is hard and ugly, but it is desperately needed.
Lastly, Councillor McIntosh’s comments in his column struck me as inappropriate. Less bold comments were made by then Councillor Towndale not too long ago about the sudden departure of the Fire Chief, and he was admonished for those comments. Why is it appropriate for Councillor McIntosh to do so now? It undermines public confidence in the Chief, in the CPS and in our community.
Dear media, local leaders, and the CPS Board,
We are writing to express our full support for Chief of Police Spowart, who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the police force and the wider community. While acknowledging the remarkable progress achieved under her leadership, it is disheartening to witness the rush to judgment by some community leaders based on incomplete survey results being leaked to the public.
The Chief has made significant strides in fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for all residents. Her proactive recruitment and comprehensive training programs have transformed the police force into a more diverse and empathetic agency that reflects our society’s fabric. She was one of the only leaders to show up at the downtown business roundtable last week, to address the rise in crime and vandalism in the downtown. These issues have made mostly female business owners feel unsafe. She led that conversation with empathy and action.
Despite the challenges she faces as a woman in a leadership position, the Chief has shown resilience, breaking down stereotypes and inspiring other women to pursue careers in law enforcement. Her success exemplifies that gender should never limit one’s potential to lead.
It is dismaying to see how certain individuals have seized upon leaked incomplete survey results to criticize the Chief without considering the full context. We urge the community to await a comprehensive understanding of the survey results before passing judgment. By considering the Chief’s initiatives, programs, and community engagement efforts, along with the perspectives of those impacted, we can foster a fair and informed dialogue.
Under Chief Spowart the Cornwall Police Service has become a more diverse organization. We should not forget that there will always be those who feel threatened when the status quo is challenged and those who feel that diversity means a loss of opportunity for themselves.
I think that it is telling that the Deputy Chief, Vincent Foy, is rated so highly in this survey as opposed to Chief Spowart, but not in the way that has already been implied in local media. These results must be given context. The police are a traditionally male-dominated field and the Police Services Board and the community at large must take into consideration any biases, unconscious or otherwise, that have baked themselves into this survey.
We have no reason to question the ability of Deputy Chief Foy, just as we have no doubt in the ability of Chief Spowart, but we do feel that a bias against women cannot be discounted here.
The Police Services Board should keep in mind that this survey is a political document, commissioned and then leaked to the media for a political purpose. That is not to say that all of its results should be discounted, but that the motivation behind this survey and especially behind the leak to the public should be kept in mind.
Our Chief of Police embodies progress and change, advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her vision for a police force that upholds the law while fostering understanding is commendable. Let us stand together, supporting our Chief in her ongoing efforts to effect positive change and create a more inclusive and progressive city.
Unlike the leaker of the survey, we are happy to put our names to this letter in support of Chief Shawna Spowart.
I am writing this letter to our community in support of our Chief of Police Shawna Spowart.
To clarify matters, the Cornwall Police Service is comprised of 2 separate associations; The Cornwall Police Association (CPA) and The Senior Officers Association (SOA). The Chief and the Deputy Chief are overseen by the Board of Directors.
As a member of the Board of Directors for the past 7 years and recently as Chair, I was requested to tender my resignation from the Board due to circumstances beyond my control.
In my capacity as Chair and my intent to ensure transparency and truthful communication, I had addressed all CPS employees concerning matters of a survey that the CPA Executive had initiated which I felt needed clarification and this led to the request for my immediate resignation. Consequently, the Secretary of the Board also resigned over concerns of the Chair’s resignation.
The appointment of a capable and accomplished female Chief of Police namely Shawna Spowart represents a significant stride towards inclusivity and gender equality and diversity. It reflects the recognition of women’s capabilities and qualifications to lead traditionally in a male-dominated field. Today I stand united with the former Secretary of the Police Service Board in support of Chief Spowart.
In October 2021, the Board of Directors, of which I was an active member as well, appointed Chief Spowart, not only to symbolize the triumph over gender-based barriers and challenges that have historically hindered women’s advancement in law enforcement, but because she had all the qualifications, knowledge and expertise to deliver the CPS into the future.
With well over 28 years of experience, she has moved up in the ranks and also held the title of Deputy Chief of Police in 2018 until her new appointment as Chief. Never in my 7 years on the CPS Board was there ever any inclination of mistrust or poor leadership on her part. She was always well respected by all sworn officers and civilians in the CPS.
Her tenure on community engagement is remarkable as she continues to be very active in many organizations in our community.
Chief Spowart has played a pivotal role in nurturing positive community-police relations. Let us, as a community, not allow one survey to determine her capability as Chief of Police without all the facts being presented before passing judgment. She, as Chief of Police, should also be given the opportunity to address the concerns expressed by her employees within the survey.
The Police Chief has many responsibilities; Leadership and Administration
Law Enforcement Planning Staff Management
Public Relations Policy Development
Emergency Response and Crisis Management Internal Investigations
Legislative Advocacy Collaboration and Partnerships
And you may question why she doesn’t do ride-along similar to Deputy Chief Foy which falls under his day- to-day operations of the organization!
In expressing our views over the unanimously leaked survey to the media, we must remember that Deputy Chief Foy is the primary point of contact with the front line workers (mostly male dominated, however this is changing with the times), which could explain why he is so highly rated in the survey. Hence, any potential biases, unconscious or otherwise, in the survey must also be taken into consideration.
Beyond her professional accomplishments, Chief Spowart serves as an inspiring role model for aspiring female law enforcement professionals.
Let us rally behind and support the remarkable contributions of our Chief of Police Shawna Spowart as a female leader by celebrating her accomplishments and recognizing the transformative impact she can have on law enforcement as a whole and allowing her to continue to enact her vision and work towards a safer community.
Thank you, Michel Payette
Former Chair of Police Service Board
Former Secretary of Police Service Board