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RNC Chief Joe Boland subject of non-confidence vote by officers; court rules Smyth's case against him moot

RNC Chief Joe Boland speaks to reporters outside RNC headquarters in St. John's. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
RNC Chief Joe Boland speaks to reporters outside RNC headquarters in St. John's. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Tara Bradbury and David Maher

The Telegram

The association representing most Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers is asking its members to participate in a non-confidence vote related to the leadership of Chief Joe Boland.

In an email sent to its members this week, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association (RNCA) asked them to take part in an online, anonymous vote with one question: “Do you have confidence in the leadership of the chief of police?” After logging in to the association’s website, members are given a simple yes or no choice.

The vote, the association said in the email, comes as a result of ongoing concerns raised by members related to Boland’s leadership.

“It should be noted that the results of this vote will not remove the chief of police from his position,” the email noted, asking its members to vote before June 25. “However, the RNC Association executive will use the results of this vote to further advocate on behalf of our members."

Boland, who was named RNC chief in 2017, began his career with the force in 1983.

“It is crucial, now, more than ever, that officers within the RNC have faith in their chief,” Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons said when he announced Boland’s appointment three years ago. “It is also vital that the public have faith in the leadership of the RNC. Undoubtedly, Chief Boland has many challenges ahead, but it gives me great comfort to know he has the trust and respect of all his fellow officers."

When contacted Thursday for comment, a spokeswoman for the Justice minister told The Telegram Parsons had not been aware of the planned vote by the RNCA and would not be providing a statement.

Both Boland and RNCA president Sgt. Mike Summers declined comment.

The vote follows months of rumblings of tension within the force, with multiple sources alleging issues of low morale and intimidation related to Boland’s leadership.

The RNCA’s 2019 Workplace Satisfaction and Engagement Survey indicated 48 per cent of respondents had replied to the statement, “I feel I can initiate a formal recourse process (e.g. grievance, complaint, appeal) without fear of reprisal,” with, “Strongly disagree.”

Thirty-eight per cent said they strongly disagreed with the statement, “In my work unit, unsatisfactory employee performance is managed effectively.”

Last fall, sources told The Telegram the chief's hiring of a new civilian forensics director was causing friction within the force, suggesting

officers who had expressed concern over the new director's role had been told they could be suspended.

"Definitely not. False," Boland said at that time.

Thursday morning, a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge ended a court action brought against Boland by RNC Const. Joe Smyth, ruling the matter moot.

Smyth had filed an application to have the court ban Boland from overseeing his upcoming internal disciplinary hearing, alleging the chief was too biased to proceed with it. Smyth’s lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, wanted Boland’s decision to proceed with an internal investigation of complaint against Smyth, brought forward by a motorcyclist to whom he had issued traffic tickets, quashed altogether. He also wanted a declaration that Boland was biased.

Justice Daniel Boone ruled the application moot, since Boland had issued a letter to the court two weeks ago recusing himself from the disciplinary hearing for undisclosed reasons. Boland's lawyer, Wendy Zdebiak, stressed Boland was not conceding a bias.

Boone awarded costs of the two court appearances made on the matter this week to Boland.

Last year, Boland confirmed to CBC News that a veteran officer had made a harassment complaint against him related to an internal investigation. The officer who had made the complaint was facing a disciplinary hearing, and that internal investigation was set to be undertaken first.

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