Review of Service Relationship with Unaccredited College

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The Calgary Police Commission is awaiting the results of an internal investigation into a relationship that the Calgary Police Service formed with an unaccredited California-based college that offered mental healthcare training. The Commission is monitoring the steps taken by the Service to address concerns about the relationship and will decide on any needed next steps following the outcome of that process.

The relationship came to the Commission’s attention following a media report questioning both the college’s legitimacy and the Service’s relationship with it. The Service was asked by the Commission to report on the quality of mental health supports available to employees, and how training and education requests are reviewed.

The Service had already initiated an internal review of its relationship with the college and the early results were presented to the Commission at an in-camera special meeting on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. The Commission’s special meeting was held in private because the discussion included confidential employee information that cannot be shared publicly.

While all the findings of the initial review cannot be released due to privacy laws and the ongoing investigation, key findings presented to the Commission that can be released are:

 

  • The Service launched a review of their relationship with the college on August 31, 2022, and all dealings with the college were suspended.

 

  • The relationship with the college was initiated in early 2021 when a proposal was brought forward to have four employees complete degrees with tuition support from the Service. It appears financial support was provided without following the Service’s required process for obtaining post-secondary tuition support.

 

  • Prior to the Service suspending the relationship with the college, two employees had enrolled in degree programs and it had been announced that a third was going to receive an honorary degree.

 

  • Three employees also completed a Police Mental Health Certificate from the college and a two-day course on Critical Incident Stress Debrief was provided to approximately 16 employees.

 

  • The Service has paid approximately $30,000 total for training and education from the college. All training has now been terminated and the Service does not have any outstanding contracts.

 

  • The Service’s policy on subsidizing post-secondary education requires that internal learning and development specialists review all requests for tuition support and that the education occur at accredited post-secondary institutions. The employee must create a learning plan that explains the rationale for taking the education, what courses are included, and how the education aligns with the Service’s business needs. The employee’s commander or manager must first approve the plan and then final approval is made by the Service’s Learning & Development Unit in consultation with a learning governance committee.

 

  • Training that is not part of a formal post-secondary education program can be approved by supervisors, provided there are no internal courses that could meet the need, that the training meets a business need, that the knowledge can be shared, and that the training is cost-effective. Some of the training provided by the college was approved through this process.

 

  • The Service’s standard for who can provide clinical mental healthcare to employees is that practitioners must have at least a master’s degree in a clinical field and have certification from or registration with a recognized Canadian professional body that independently reviews qualifications. The qualifications of all internal practitioners that currently provide mental health treatment were reviewed by the Service this month and meet that standard.

 

  • The majority of cases where employees require clinical mental healthcare are actually referred to external professionals chosen in consultation with the employee. They must meet the same standards as internal practitioners and also must have proper professional liability insurance.

 

The next step in the review process is for an external firm to conduct a workplace investigation to determine if there has been any misconduct by Service employees.

While the initial review did not find evidence that any of the college’s course material has been incorporated into the Service’s wellness practices, an external mental healthcare expert will be retained to determine if this is the case and to recommend any needed corrections. The college and its faculty have not provided any direct treatment or mental health support services to employees.

The Commission asked the Service to expand the scope of the independent review into whether the college’s material has impacted mental health supports to include ensuring that the care being provided is religiously neutral, given the connections some faculty members of the college had with police chaplaincy training programs.

Decisions around any further actions for both the Service and Commission will be made after the workplace investigation is complete.

The requested general reports on the overall quality of mental health and wellness supports, and the process for reviewing training and education requests, are expected at other Commission meetings this fall.


“We continue to have serious questions about how the Service ended up paying for employees to take degrees from an unaccredited college, especially when there is a policy that forbids it. We will ensure that this question, and questions around the vetting of the other training provided by this college, are thoroughly investigated and addressed.

This incident has unfortunately cast doubt in some employees’ minds about the quality of mental health supports available to them. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and restore trust in the system as quickly as possible so that employees will continue seeking out those supports when they need help.”

– Commission Chair Shawn Cornett