Monday, September 26, 2022

LPS sufficiently restructured and concerns are dealt with, says police commission

The Lethbridge Police Service is on a good track rebuilding public trust after receiving a response to its action plan from Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, according to the police commission. Former minister Kaycee Madu requested the plan last year, saying the service had to fix internal issues and restore trust in the department. Shandro responded to the plan with a letter in August this year.

“I have now received and read the updated action plan, which I found to be a very thorough and professional document. Further, I would like to commend both the LPS and the Lethbridge Police Commission (LPC) for their diligence and commitment to detail. This approach will certainly help ensure that the citizens of Lethbridge live in a safe and secure community,” he wrote. “In my view, the action plan maps out the efficient and effective steps that the LPS has taken to revitalize and renew its workplace culture. The detailed strategies laid out in the document serve as a blueprint for bringing about real change within the service.”

BACKGROUND: Lethbridge Police Chief submits “action plan” to Alberta Justice Minister

Chair of the Lethbridge Police Commission, Rob VanSpronsen and Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh presented an update on the action plan to the city’s safety standing policy committee on Sept. 8.

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 “We have felt that we have sufficiently restructured the LPS and felt that the concerns that were addressed by the minister, we’ve dealt with,” VanSpronsen said, adding the commission does not want to see the update as a mere checklist. “We see this as a living document, it’s ongoing and we wanted to role this into our strategic planning.”

VanSpronsen said the plan has to do with efficient and effective policing for the and the commission values trustworthiness, transparency and accountability. 

RELATED: Lethbridge Police hear residents’ concerns at town hall meeting

The request for the action plan stemmed from multiple instances of alleged misconduct, including five officers and one civilian employee conducting unauthorized database searches of Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips’ personal information while she was environment minister. Five LPS employees were also suspended for unrelated issues of misconduct in 2021, for allegedly circulating inappropriate images targeting senior officers as well as Phillips.

Mehdizadeh, who has been chief since 2020, said he came into the role knowing there were issues with the department.

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“Immediately when I came here, [I tried] to figure out what was going on in the department and immediately we were starting to look at different initiatives that we needed to put into place. Obviously the discipline process was not good, there were files that were left from many many years that needed to be dealt with,” he said. “The culture of the organization needed some adjustment and retuning. There were a lot of issues between infighting — if I want to call it that — between management [and] the union and so there were many many significant issues we had to deal with.” 

The presentation was accepted as information at the committee with a motion from Coun. John Middleton-Hope, who sits on the police commission and served as Lethbridge police chief from 2002–2006.

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