Tough times for Oak Bay police dept.

Organizational reviews, human rights complaint ongoing

Oak Bay police department is in the hot seat as it faces external reviews of its operations and structure and a discrimination complaint against two of its senior officers.

Deputy Chief Kent Thom and Sgt. Ray Maxwell, as well as the Oak Bay police board, are named in a complaint lodged with the British Columbia Human Rights tribunal by fellow officer Const. Jennifer Gibbs.

Gibbs, who was hired in early 2008, originally filed the complaint in October 2009.

In her complaint, Gibbs alleges several instances in which Thom singled her out for verbal reprimands based on her gender. She also alleges that Maxwell made comments to her about her abilities which would not have been made to a male police officer.

The complaint alleges that in a 2009 performance evaluation, Gibbs was told by Maxwell, her supervisor, that “she should keep her mouth shut.” Exactly what was being referred to isn’t clear. Gibbs also alleges she was passed over for a higher position in favour of a less experienced male officer.

Gibbs would not speak on the record about the complaint.

Thom said the tribunal process is confidential and he also could not comment on the complaint. Maxwell was unavailable for comment.

Maxwell was not included in the original complaint, but was added last fall. In her reasons for that decision, tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski wrote that it was in the public interest to add him as a respondent “due to the degree of personal culpability that characterizes the allegations against him …”

A hearing date for the case has not yet been scheduled.

A nine-member body of human rights lawyers appointed by the lieutenant governor, the tribunal rules on official complaints and can enforce its recommendations through the B.C. Human Rights Code.

Oak Bay Police Department is also currently the subject of a two-part external review of its structure and operations.

The police board called for an operational review to be headed by retired provincial court judge Alan Filmer. He will interview all Oak Bay police staff and look at promotion policy, policy manuals, workloads and officer complaints in general.

In addition, the judge will look at overtime. The department spent $171,159 on overtime expenses in 2010, well over its budget of $125,499. Filmer is expected to file his report to the police board by Feb. 15.

In addition, an organizational review is being done by the RCMP. After seven years of contracting out services to Saanich police, the department’s structure needs examining, Oak Bay Mayor and police board chair Christopher Causton said. The RCMP review was expected by today (Feb. 4).

As for the discrimination complaint, Causton said the board is encouraging the department and Gibbs to resolve their differences with mediation.

“Everyone knows in human rights complaints there are no winners,” he said, adding that reputations are at stake. “The organization loses, the complainant loses, everyone loses.”

vmoreau@oakbaynews.com