Armed with concerns about how their chief does his job, some local police officers have called a special meeting to have “frank discussions” about the leader of Lethbridge’s municipal police force.
The Lethbridge Police Association — a union group representing rank and file Lethbridge regional police officers — passed a motion at its private annual general meeting Oct. 1 to hold a meeting on Oct. 15 to deal with the membership’s concerns about Chief Tom McKenzie, who is a 36-year veteran of the police service.
Association president Const. Tom Kramer said he couldn’t say what the officers’ specific concerns are, only that rumours of a no-confidence vote are false.
“There were some concerns from the membership. What those concerns are going to be aired or going to be discussed on Oct. 15, so at this point in time, it would be premature to say exactly what those concerns are, what the facts are, what the information is, because we haven’t had the meeting yet. There’s been no vote, no motion of any type of confidence or no-confidence in the chief of police,” Kramer said.
That meeting — brought about by the association’s members, not its board — will not be open to the public, Kramer said, but he expects he’ll be able to release more information afterward.
“We’re going to have some frank discussions and there’s going to be some more information that I’m able to look at after the meeting, because we’ll be presented with, hopefully, all the information that we need,” he said. “We don’t even know if there’s going to be any additional motions or if there’s going to be any decisions or even if we need to move forward. Basically this is a discussion. Every one of our membership has the right to voice their opinion, their comments and we’ll take that into account and whatever the membership decides, we will take that direction.”
Calling such a meeting is unusual, Kramer said. In his 23 years with the Lethbridge police service, he’s only seen it happen once before.
Chief McKenzie issued a statement Thursday afternoon responding to media inquiries about the issue.
“With regard to a meeting the Lethbridge Police Association has scheduled next week I have not been formally provided with any information. At no time did the LPA notify me of its decision to hold a meeting of its members on Oct. 15 nor has the LPA provided me with any specific details regarding issues it may have with my tenure as Chief. I only became aware of the meeting after rumours began circulating within the police station following the Association’s annual general meeting earlier this month where a motion was brought from the floor,” the statement reads.
“I strongly believe that open and honest communication is one of the foundations of a healthy organization and necessary to maintain effective relationships both internally and externally. I am not a member of the police union as it represents the rank and file officers only. As such I have not been asked to attend the meeting on Oct. 15. I would, however, welcome the opportunity to speak directly with anyone who has an issue. As a police officer I have spent the past 36 years dedicated to serving our communities and as Chief my commitment to all the men and women of the Lethbridge Regional Police Service and our citizens remains strong.”
McKenzie’s contract as chief expires in July 2014 and the police commission is already working on a succession plan to replace him when that time comes. He was sworn in as chief in January 2007. At the time, he was the first chief in more than 20 years to be selected from within the police department's own ranks at the end of a search that began only after the previous chief, John Middleton-Hope, retired in August 2006.