After Porter affair, KV’s new police chief looks to continue improving workplace culture
October 15, 2021 By Canadian Press / Local Journalism Initiative
Oct. 14, 2021, Kennebecasis Valley, N.B. – The new chief of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force says ensuring the department maintains a healthy work culture for all members is his top priority after being named the force’s newest chief last week.
“I know that Chief (Wayne) Gallant put in a lot of effort, along with all the staff here, to address wellness,” said Steve Gourdeau, a 30-year veteran of the RCMP.
Born in Roberval, Que., Gourdeau, a long-time resident of the Kennebecasis Valley, is taking over from Gallant, who’s retiring after serving as chief for nearly four years.
“That’s something that is very dear to my heart,” Gourdeau said of workplace culture. “I feel that there is nothing you can accomplish outside if you don’t take care internally of wellness in the workplace. I know that Chief Gallant believes that very strongly and so do I, and I’d like to think that’s one of the reasons why I am here.”
In the past, the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force has been plagued by sexual and workplace harassment allegations.
In 2016, longtime chief Stephen McIntyre retired after a New Brunswick Police Commission investigation identified 23 alleged conduct violations. His retirement made a scheduled arbitration hearing null and void.
Court records alleged complaints against then Insp. Jeff Porter were brought to McIntyre in 2016, but McIntyre dismissed them and instead filed a complaint against the officer who came forward about Porter. An investigation determined McIntyre’s complaint was unfounded.
A second complaint was filed against Porter. He was suspended with pay beginning in June 2016 over 16 alleged code of conduct violations under the Police Act.
Steven Palmer, formerly the force’s deputy chief, replaced McIntyre, claiming in a lawsuit, the force “was, and still is, embroiled in very serious sexual and workplace harassment matters.”
Palmer, by then, had spent 36 years in policing. When he announced his retirement seven months later, he said the plan from the time he took over as chief was that he’d be retiring after 16 months.
While in the top spot, Palmer launched a new leadership development program, a six-month tryout for vacant staff positions, before the jobs are officially posted. This led to Anika Becker and Mary Henderson being promoted as inspectors – the first women to hold the rank in the force’s history.
Chief Wayne Gallant continued that work, recently promoting officer Kim Bennett to sergeant, the first woman to hold that rank on the force.
Porter ultimately did not face a hearing into the allegations – an arbitrator decided not to proceed because Porter retired just prior to a scheduled hearing in December 2020. The New Brunswick Police Commission said it no longer had jurisdiction over the complaint after the retirement.
And more improvements are on the way, according to Gourdeau, who said in the past four years the force has hired a full-time human resources staff member to help ensure the culture remains welcoming and continues to evolve.
“There has been training identified. It has been given to members of the force, including the senior management team,” he said.
For his part, Gourdeau said it’s important to maintain open communication with the police staff, and he’s initiated daily meetings with the platoons and specialized units.
“People are telling me what’s on their mind and that’s great,” he said. “What we obviously want is people to be looking forward to coming to work, to be looking forward to being with their partners … and have a good time in the workplace and feel that it is safe and respectful.”
Throughout his career with the RCMP, Gourdeau served in rural and urban communities in Manitoba and New Brunswick, as well as overseas as a peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia.
He has experience in patrol and uniform policing in remote Indigenous communities, and has worked several years in general duty policing and as a narcotics and criminal intelligence investigator, according to a media release.
Gourdeau has served years in Criminal Operations for J-Division as the coordinator for the provincial crime reduction strategy, the release notes. He retired from the RCMP in 2015 as the senior NCO for the Southeast District based out of the Hampton office.
Since his retirement from the RCMP, Gourdeau has continued to work, sharing his experience and knowledge with various provincial government departments including the Residential Tenancies Tribunal and the justice department.
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