Police perception changing in Fredericton, New Brunswick

New Brunswick law enforcement is having a rough time this year as local officers and RCMP are being suspended or fired.

Four RCMP officers were recently fired in Woodstock for alleged discreditable conduct in December.

One of the most talked about police forces this year is Fredericton’s. Const. Cherie Campbell was fired from the Fredericton Police Force due to a dispute involving shoplifting in Houlton, Maine. The issue went to court but it did not reach a innocent or guilty verdict.

Now, Chief Leanne Fitch of the force is facing as investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission as Const. Campbell appeals the decision for her termination.

The Fredericton Police Headquarters in downtown Fredericton. Photo: Shawn Goff
The Fredericton Police Headquarters in downtown Fredericton. Photo: Shawn Goff

Campbell isn’t the only Fredericton officer who is in trouble. Cpl. Leo Lafleur is facing an impaired driving charge and Sgt. Tim Sowers is charged with uttering threats.

Some Frederictonians were upset that Const. Campbell allegedly shoplifted.

“You would think that somebody who is a police officer would be held to a higher… you would at least expect them to obey the law,” said one citizen.

Others thought that while the firing was significant, it didn’t exactly represent all of the police force.

“Even though they are a force together there are individuals within the force, so I can’t say that that completely sways my opinion of the entire law enforcement because of that one incident,” another citizen said.

St. Thomas University policing expert Dr. Jean Sauvageau, said that police forces should find out more about individuals entering police forces after graduation, to avoid any wrongdoings.

“People first go to a police academy of one type or another then out of this academy police forces hire a number of them,” said Sauvageau.

“So how you recruit, how you hire people, who you hire, in what conditions, there needs to be some major overhaul.”

St. Thomas Communications professor, Jamie Gillies, said he also believes that Fredericton’s force may need a major overhaul.

St. Thomas University Professor Jamie Gillies believes the force needs a change in communications. Photo: Shawn Goff
“In an era of social media it is such a concern that local police forces or something like the RCMP, members be above reproach,” said Gillies. Photo: Shawn Goff

“So any time they are found in violation of the law or they are suspended, or there’s concerns, this get amplified in the media. And So I think they need to start thinking collectively, law enforcement entirely, collectively, about different kinds of better communications tools.”

One Fredericton citizen believes that the firing on Const. Campbell is too public in terms of communications.

“Everything is too public today. Its painful for her and for her family, and whatever. Its demoralizing. I don’t want to be somebodies judge,” she said.

While there isn’t a confirmed trend, Fredericton did face 63 police complaints their 2010-2011 fiscal year compared to Saint John’s 16 and Miramichi’s 18.

Dr. Sauvageau said that we may be hearing more about our law enforcement due to a change in transparency in police forces.

“It appears to be that one way to read this is that a Chief like Chief Fitch in Fredericton has decided to take a more public bolder approach and deal with issues involving the officers of the force head on, boldly, publicly.”