A group of female police officers have launched a campaign to change what they have referred to as ‘intolerable’ conducts in the police force.
“Women are leaving police in droves, and there’s a reason for that,” said Waterloo police Const. Angeline Rivers.
Rivers spoke to the media recently about her concerns about gender-based harassment, discrimination and bullying.
Current and former police officers have established the National Women in Law Enforcement Association, a national advocacy group to support female police in the workplace where, too often, they feel that they are treated as outsiders.
They will lobby for change at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.
Rivers is part of a class-action suit against the Waterloo police board and its union alleging gender-based bullying, misconduct and more.
According to Rivers, the group was founded when they realized their lawsuit against the Waterloo police would take years.
“That’s time female officers be facing discrimination do not have,” she said.
Rivers said male officers in her team began spreading rumours that she was having an affair with a colleague. Her immediate superior sent her sexually explicit texts, including requests for her to send naked pictures.
When she complained, she was reassigned to an undesirable position.
The Waterloo Police Services Board has said it would challenge the suit, calling it “inappropriate” and saying filing a complaint under Ontario’s Police Services Act would have been “the appropriate means to deal with the allegations.”
The retaliation for speaking out can be worse, said Const. Kim Prodaniuk, an officer with the Calgary Police Service who helped establish the national advocacy group.
Prodaniuk said she was called a “bitch” for speaking out against what she said was gender-based discrimination from a supervisor.
Jen Magnus, a former Calgary officer who also helped form the advocacy group, publicly resigned in February at a Calgary police commission meeting after coming forward with allegations of workplace harassment and bullying.
“It was clear to me that the culture wasn’t going to change with one sole voice complaining,” she said. “You need a national association like this for people to find that strength and find that voice.”