Calgary police didn’t follow proper processes in relationship with unaccredited college, says report

The Calgary Police Commission has released the results of an investigation into the Calgary Police Service’s relationship with an unaccredited California college that provided nearly two dozen employees with mental health training.

Over a year-long relationship, starting in August 2021, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) paid the College of Certified Psychophysiologists — which was later found to be unaccredited — roughly $30,000.

The money was spent on degree and certificate programs, as well as a two-day course titled Critical Incident Stress Debrief, to teach employees new ways to help their colleagues with mental health.

All training and contracts have since been terminated, says the report.

CPS presented its investigation findings to the police commission on Jan. 25.

CPS wasn’t following proper processes

In September 2022, a CPS detective conducted a criminal investigation into the issue, which was reviewed by the RCMP. It found no criminal acts — including fraud — were committed by CPS or the college. No charges were laid.

Following the criminal investigation, CPS hired an independent law firm to conduct a third-party workplace investigation.

That investigation found that the police service was not following proper policies and processes during their relationship with the college.

While the report doesn’t share more details, citing privacy laws, it says CPS didn’t follow the proper payment process for providing tuition support to employees.

“Had the proper process been followed, the college would have been properly screened.”

The report says CPS has adopted a number of policy and process changes that were recommended by the law firm, including tightened requirements around degrees and training, clearer procedures around the use of corporate credit cards for training expenses and considering an advisory committee to review third-party mental health training.

Another review underway

Commission chair Shawn Cornett said in a statement in the report that she’s confident that CPS’ relationship with the college was properly investigated.

“The focus will now be on restoring the trust of employees in the wellness supports available to them,” said Cornett in the report.

“No member of the police service should have to wonder about the quality of support they will receive if they reach out for help, and this incident has unfortunately raised some doubts that need to be immediately addressed.”

A review by an independent medical professional is currently underway to investigate whether any of the college’s course material has made its way into the service’s wellness supports.

The review also will look into ensuring that wellness care being provided is religiously neutral, “given the connections some faculty members of the college had with police chaplaincy training programs.”

Tightened internal processes needed

Doug King, professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University, says he applauds the commission for being transparent, but it’s clear internal processes need to be tightened.

“When you’re talking about training and education and support for officers that need mental health assistance … you can’t be fooling around with that kind of delivery,” said King.

Doug King, justice studies professor at Mount Royal University, says after learning processes weren’t followed CPS, he wonders if it was a “friends helping friends” situation. (Francois Joly/Radio-Canada)

King says the impact spreads further than the employees who participated in the training, though — it also “can have damaging effects on police officers who have nothing to do with this whole situation.”

He says he’d like to see a follow-up report shared in a year or two that goes over more specifics about the training employees were given and the processes they went through.

CBC has reached out to the College of Certified Psychophysiologists, which was not immediately available for comment. 

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