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Op-Ed: Police Association membership overwhelmingly unhappy with TBPS management

Police say they lack the resources and support from the department to do their jobs, leading to a downward trend in officer morale.
Westfort Shooting 4
Thunder Bay Police officers are routinely dealing with gun violence and its aftermath. (FILE)

THUNDER BAY -- The Thunder Bay Police Association (TBPA) represents the interests of the over 350 sworn police officer and civilian police service employees of the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) who are committed to advancing community safety throughout the City of Thunder Bay and Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge every single day. From 2016 to 2020,

Thunder Bay’s violent crime severity index rate, which is measured annually by Statistics Canada, has risen significantly by 27 per cent.

This can be, in part, attributed to increases in gun and gang violence in our city, as discussed in the TBNewswatch article “TBPS seeing a rising trend in firearm related crime” published on Oct. 26, 2021.

Our members are being asked to do more to combat these serious public safety issues on a more regular basis, however, the TBPA does not believe they are being provided with adequate support or resources from the police service. After receiving a notable volume of anecdotal member feedback about potential issues within the service, the TBPA commissioned a third-party member satisfaction survey earlier this year to better understand perspectives on a number of topics related to employment with TBPS.

With a strong 68 per cent response rate, in May 2021, the anonymous survey results were shared with TBPA members, TBPS, and the Thunder Bay Police Service Board (TBPSB) in an effort to collaborate toward positive change. To date, no meaningful actions have been taken by the police service and members’ morale continues to trend downward.

The TBPA’s member satisfaction survey revealed numerous issues:

• When it comes to human resource issues, 60 per cent of TBPA members disagree or strongly disagree that their current unit or assignment is adequately staffed, and over 66 per cent stated that staffing levels have caused them concern for member or community safety.

• Regarding support from senior management, nearly 79 per cent feel their feedback is valued a little or not at all, 74 per cent stated senior management rarely or never encourages openness and transparency, and 64 per cent disagree or strongly disagree that the actions, attitudes, and behaviours of senior management are consistent with an organization that prioritizes mental health and wellness.

• Notably, 81 per cent feel little or no support from senior management on current issues and associated media coverage affecting policing in Thunder Bay and across the province.

• Finally, when asked if members feel valued by TBPS for their contributions, 60 per cent responded a little or not at all and 76 per cent described employee morale as negative or very negative.

The above examples are just a few of the troubling findings of the TBPA survey.

They point to a workplace culture that is perceived to be unsupportive, under resourced, and unappreciative of the intense and often traumatic jobs our members are expected to perform.

Given the service’s failure to prioritize the concerns of local police personnel and disinterest in working with the Association to address the matters raised, we feel it is important for the community to be made aware of the TBPA board of directors’ position regarding the current TBPS senior leadership team and how their continued inaction has the potential to impact our members’ ability to effectively uphold public safety.

We remain steadfast in our ongoing advocacy efforts to the police service regarding member feedback. If you share the Association’s concerns, voice your opinion to the police service, police service board or your municipal councillors.

TBPA sworn and civilian police personnel members are your neighbours, friends, and fellow community members. It is our collective duty to ensure Thunder Bay and Oliver Paipoonge are safe places to live and work.

While these may be challenging times, the TBPA and its membership are committed to exceeding the public’s rightfully-high expectations and regularly evaluating how we can evolve our roles to continue providing the best service possible to all communities in Thunder Bay and Oliver Paipoonge.

Colin Woods is the president of the Thunder Bay Police Association.


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