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Calgary Police Service files lawsuit against former HR director

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The Calgary Police Service is suing its former human resources director after she breached the conditions of her resignation proposal by divulging information that was "harmful to the interests" of the service.

The lawsuit, filed with the Court of King's Bench on March 20, was issued by Chief Const. Mark Neufeld against Angela Whitney, a Calgary woman who served as the CPS' human resources director for approximately two years, beginning in 2019.

According to the statement of claim, obtained by CTV News, Whitney told the CPS she would be resigning from her position amid a medical leave of absence.

At that time, the CPS proposed she agree to "standard confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses" given that she "had access to certain confidential and proprietary information belonging to the CPS."

The court document stated that meant she would not be able to make any public statement, either by social media or any other method, to "slander, defame or disparage" the CPS.

The agreement also meant Whitney would not be able to file any complaints, actions, claims, appeals or any other legal action against the CPS.

"In addition to her obligations under the Resignation Proposal and Agreement, as an HR professional, Ms. Whitney owed the CPS common law duties to keep confidential all HR matters learned in the course of her employment," the document said.

Approximately three years later, on Feb. 8, the statement of claim said Whitney broke the terms of the agreement.

"Ms. Whitney began consistently posting on social media platforms including "X" (formerly known as Twitter) and LinkedIn, numerous inappropriate posts about the CPS (and) its employees."

Some of the comments included allegations that Whitney's job had been given to an underqualified subordinate, claims of sexual abuse against female members and accounts of the CPS threatening her with "cease and desist" letters if she did not stop posting information online.

"Ms. Whitney also made repeated reference in her posts to threatening to release further confidential information about the CPS and its employees," the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit says all of the comments Whitney made on social media were in breach of her resignation agreement and "will have a chilling effect on employees' willingness to trust and participate in HR processes moving forward, thereby interfering with the CPS' ability to continue to modernize its HR processes."

On top of the statements she made on social media, Whitney was also interviewed by a Calgary news organization about her allegations of harassment, bullying and discrimination within the CPS.

"There was just really pervasive behaviours, a lot of harassment, a lot of bullying, sexual harassment and really discriminatory behaviour towards constables," she said during the interview.

Whitney added that a number of officers were fired for issues such as ageism, sexism, discriminatory behaviour, bullying and misuse of computer systems under her watch.

The lawsuit says the CPS first sent Whitney a letter requesting her to remove the comments made in breach of the agreement on Feb. 20.

Whitney continued with the comments, including statements that falsely suggested the resignation agreement she signed was an "NDA" that was "forced upon her."

CPS lawyers sent Whitney a second demand letter, ordering her to remove all of the breaching comments by Feb. 29.

"Notwithstanding the Second Demand Letter, the Breaching Comments have not been removed and Ms. Whitney continues to make inappropriate posts about the CPS and its employees.

"In fact, as set out above, subsequent to the First and Second Demand Letters, Ms. Whitney has continued making further Breaching Comments and attempting to disseminate the Breaching Comments to wider audiences by reposting those comments and tagging third parties, including media and public officials."

The lawsuit seeks all of the comments to be removed from social media platforms and all media coverage as well as a permanent injunction against Whitney, barring her from "making any further inappropriate posts or interviews in breach of the agreement."

No statement of defence has been filed by Whitney and CTV News is attempting to reach her for comment.

The lawsuit has not been tested in court.

The Calgary Police Commission will do an external review to address concerns about discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Whitney spoke at a police commission meeting on Wednesday about what she calls a toxic workplace.

The commission chair says the details of the review still need to be worked out, but it plans to bring in outside expertise to conduct a review of the workplace at the Calgary Police Service.

The goal is to determine whether work done so far to address workplace culture is working, where it's lacking and what can be done differently.

Whitney said at the meeting she experienced discrimination, harassment and bullying, and oversaw cases where others experienced the same.

She said she also saw people punished further for speaking up.

"Neufeld notes the chilling effect of my public comments about the toxicity I have experienced during my time at CPS through the reform. However, the chilling effect I believe has been made by his actions, the message Neufeld is sending to members of the CPS and to Calgarians is this: if they raise concerns or report their abuse, they may face severe, personal repercussions. This is not acceptable," Whitney said.

"I think it's not uncommon for people to direct comments at the organization or the police chief and that's fine," Neufeld said.

"I think what's really important though is that some of the remarks cast a really long shadow over the organization and the membership, so that's the part that's not OK and so again, that's why I'm happy to see this get into a process that's sort of a constructive process where we can get to the meat of the matter and then move things forward."

Whitney provided CTV News with her full statement to the commission:

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Good afternoon, Calgary Police Commission,

Thank you for allowing me to speak this afternoon. My name is Angela Whitney; and I was the Director of Human Resources at the CPS from June 2019 to June 2021. My tenure at the CPS was during the time of HR reform, directed by the Commission, and after the resignation of the former CHRO.

My attendance this afternoon is to bring transparency and awareness to serious systemic cultural issues at the CPS, in a sincere hope that a pathway for a safe workplace for the individuals who serve Calgarians, can be achieved.

I care deeply about this City, Calgarians and importantly, this City’s first responders. By sharing my own personal experiences with the toxicity and harassment as a high-ranking senior leader at the CPS, I hope to create a safe pathway for others to blow the whistle.

Allegations of the dysfunctional toxic culture at the CPS that warrant reforms are not new; with reports dating back greater than a decade detailing gender inequality, sexual harassment, sexual assault, abuse of authority and reprisal for those who file complaint.

My own experiences with this workplace, as a high-ranking leader during an HR reform, ordered by Commission included:

  1. gender inequality
  2. abuse of authority
  3. harassment
  4. an inability to properly ensure a workplace free of harassment per Occupational Health & Safety and Bill 30
  5. a lack of respect for Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity
  6. no psychological safety

Since leaving the CPS, I continue to hear from sworn and civilian employees who are suffering similar or worse experiences still, and as a Calgarian I continue to see alarming symptoms, such as the Chief dismissing racial profiling as non-serious, and the subsequent legal decision declaring that as unreasonable. The Province of British Columbia launching a criminal probe into police training similar to what occurs within our city. This speaks to me that meaningful change has not occurred thus far.

I implore the Calgarians to demand accountability, and request our Minister of Public Safety to intervene. Full transparency is in Calgarians best interest as our tax dollars are being wasted tremendously by allowing the dysfunction to fester.

Importantly, I am imploring those who had the same or similar experiences to come forward and blow the whistle.

Without your voice; there will be no change, it will allow these issues to remain away from those who have the ability to enact and enforce sustainable change.

I will finish with a final statement; I feel that intimidating a victim of workplace harassment for blowing the whistle should raise alarms for our City. Neufeld notes the “chilling effect” of my public comments about the toxicity I experienced at the CPS during the reform; however, the chilling effect, I believe, has been made by his actions. The message Neufeld is sending to members of the CPS and Calgarians is this: if they raise concerns or report their abuse, they may face severe personal repercussions. This is not acceptable. It is additionally alarming and deplorable that the Commission Chair, a position that Calgarians are expected to trust, supports the suing of, and use of tax payer dollars to seek a permanent injunction, silencing the voice of a whistleblower

in order to eliminate any public transparency about these important issues.

Thank you, I look forward to a private meeting with members of Commission in coming weeks to share specific details about my complaints. 

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