‘Change agent’ sought in hunt for next Calgary chief
As the Calgary police commission sets its sights on finding a new chief, one local expert expects the successful candidate will be a “change agent” who will be tasked with “trying to right the ship” in key areas identified by the civilian oversight body.
“My expectation is … they’re going to be looking for someone that has demonstrated in their organization that they are in currently or recently that they are agents of change, that they can articulate a direction for the future and have demonstrated that they have the leadership skills to be that kind of person,” said Doug King, a professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University.
Chief Roger Chaffin announced in July that he planned to retire, three years into a five-year contract, citing personal and professional reasons. He is expected to step down in January.
A Calgary police commission invitation for proposals from executive search firms interested in partnering with the commission and its search committee closed Sept. 14. An interim chief is expected to oversee the police service if a new chief isn’t selected by the time Chaffin leaves.
Chair Brian Thiessen said the commission is looking for a “modern leader” who has worked with diverse communities and is “open and understanding ” of the diversity in the community. The successful candidate will also be expected to value community policing and to pursue ongoing work intended to improve the service, including workplace reforms and implementing recommendations from a recent use-of-force report.
“The new chief would need to effectively communicate a vision, priorities and policies to the CPS that create trust and a supportive environment,” Thiessen said.
“And included in that is morale concerns that service members have expressed. So a leader that can address those and create a commitment among service members to the changes that the public are looking for, I think is really important.”
Claims of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation detailed in a 2013 internal review of the Calgary Police Service emerged in October 2016. The service has since made regular reports to the police commission on steps to address workplace concerns and gender equity issues.
Former Calgary police constable Jen Magnus, who resigned from the service after going public with concerns about bullying and harassment, said the new police chief needs “to bring in new hope.”
“Hopefully they look at someone from the exterior, outside of the Calgary Police Service, to bring that change,” Magnus said.
She added that when Christine Silverberg was named chief in 1995, becoming the first female police chief of a major Canadian city, it led to a shakeup in the senior ranks of the organization.
“I’m hopeful that that’s what will happen with the new chief that comes in,” Magnus said.
King said Chaffin’s successor doesn’t necessarily need to come from outside the police service. But the problem with picking an internal candidate, he added, “is how quickly can they divorce themselves from the leadership culture that’s been within the police service now?”
King ’s other concern is that the pool of applicants could consist of officers “who are just going to replicate policing as it’s been done for 20 years.”
“Policing needs to move into the 21st century and engage in participatory management and participatory leadership and all of that, and I’m not so sure there’s a police chief candidate available in the (internal) pool to do that,” King said. “And that’s the kind of thing I really worry about — (that) we’re just going to fall into the same old, same old.”
During a recent Calgary conference on women in policing, Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley said she hopes to see more women as police chiefs.
“One of the most important things we can do as we move forward, not just in policing but in all leadership roles, (is) to acknowledge that we don’t see women in those leadership roles not because there are no qualified women, it’s because we haven’t taken the steps to allow those women to advance,” Ganley said.
Thiessen said the police commission has continually encouraged the service to mentor and move women up the ranks. He echoed Ganley’s encouragement of women to apply for senior positions.
“If there are female officers that feel they’re at the age and stage and capabilities to serve as chief, I strongly encourage them to apply,” Thiessen said.
“I think it’s incontrovertible that the more that women participate at senior ranks in police services, including CPS, the better balanced our service will be — and diverse candidates, not just women, but women from all diverse backgrounds. I think we need to reflect the community that the service serves, and I hope they’ll apply.”
Whoever does make it through the selection process to take the helm of the local police service faces a unique opportunity, King said.
“Because what they can possibly do is transform an old-fashioned organization into a state-of-theart, current, new kind of policing organization,” he said.
Calgary had the same opportunity when Brian Sawyer, a former RCMP superintendent, became chief in 1973, King said.
“He transformed not just policing in Calgary, but he transformed policing across Canada by introducing community policing. That is possible if they hire the right person.”
Sawyer, who served until 1984, is often credited with taking the force into the modern era of policing, creating crime-prevention units, establishing zone policing, instituting school resource officers and creating neighbourhood watch programs. He died in 2012 at the age of 82.
Thiessen said the commission is trying to move through the hiring process quickly, starting with the selection of an executive search firm, some form of public consultation and a job posting for the chief.
The search for a new Calgary chief comes at the same time as Edmonton police and RCMP’s K Division are also facing the loss of top officers. But Calgary “stacks up really well in a competition,” Thiessen said.
“I expect you’ll see some crossover, where people who were considering applying or applied for other jurisdictions saying Calgary would be my No. 1 choice.”
Hopefully they look at someone from the exterior, outside of the Calgary Police Service, to bring …change.
Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin announced in July that he was retiring for personal and professional reasons.