March 5th, 2010 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts

Cops in The 'Couv Take No Confidence Vote Against Police Chief

Navin Sharma

With all the attention focused on the Portland Police Bureau these days, it's easy to forget about all the news roiling the police force in Vancouver.

Part of the issue across the Columbia continues to be fall-out from the case involving former VPD police officer Navin Sharma. The city paid Sharma a $1.65 million settlement (a record in the Northwest) for discriminatory labor practices. Officers who supported Sharma say they have suffered retaliation and others continue to protest against what they say is arbitrary and ineffective management.

Last night, the Vancouver Police Officers Guild authorized a no-confidence vote against Chief Clifford Cook, who became the department's fourth chief in seven years when he took over VPD in 2007. (Portland police union members took a no-confidence vote on Chief Rosie Sizer last November in the wake of discipline against Officer Chris Humphreys for bean-bagging a 12-year-old girl but never released the result of that vote.)

Here's a statement the Vancouver police guild, which represents 181 officers and is equivalent to Portland's police union, issued:
Nearly one year after sending a “Statement of Concerns” to Vancouver Police Chief Clifford Cook, members of the Vancouver Police Officers Guild voted tonight authorizing a vote of no confidence in the chief, to signal that it has given up on Cook's leadership and management abilities. The ballot by mail will be taken among the membership over the next two weeks.

"Nothing changed," said VPOG President Ryan Martin. "In that statement, we spelled out in some detail years of mismanagement that had resulted in disparate treatment, discrimination, selective enforcement, unfair/harsh discipline, favoritism, cronyism, and a lack of accountability at the management level within our department." Each of these charges was backed by specific examples.

Cook became chief in April 2007 knowing most of the department's strengths and weaknesses through a voluntary survey he provided to employees prior to his arrival. By his own account, 70 percent of the department's employees returned that survey. Despite the strong indication of employee concern, issues disclosed in those surveys remained unaddressed until VPOG issued its' statement of Guild concerns two years later, in March 2009.

Cook responded by letter to the statement of concerns deeming it unproductive and took no action.

A subsequent internal survey, followed by an external survey commissioned by the city through Matrix Consulting Group in 2009, validated the existence of these issues and concerns. Since then, meetings which Cook vowed to initiate between management and the Guild failed to materialize when the chief opted instead to use available funds for management/leadership training rather than a mediator to help facilitate communications between the groups.

According to Martin, “VPOG has wanted to exhaust all administrative remedies before taking a vote of no confidence. Every attempt at resolution has failed and our voice continues to fall on deaf ears.” The membership delayed this vote in a meeting two weeks ago; waiting for an expression from City Manager Pat McDonnell that would indicate changes in police leadership would occur. No such expression was forthcoming.

“I'm very certain our membership will vote, “no confidence in the chief,” Martin concluded. “VPOG believes we can have a much better department. We believe in organizational success. Our members have a vested interest in our department and our next chief should too.” Formal balloting within the membership will begin immediately.
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