West Van police chief says retirement planned before employee allegations made public

Mayor Michael Smith addresses the media at a press conference about the retirement of West Vancouver
Mayor Michael Smith addresses the media at a press conference about the retirement of West Vancouver's police chief amid allegations of a toxic work environment.
— image credit: Michaela Garstin

West Vancouver police chief Peter Lepine is retiring amid accusations of a toxic work environment.

His announcement came a day after media reports of an employee survey with alleged complaints of sexual harassment, racism, bullying and punishment of whistler-blowers.

But both Lepine and West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith, who is also chairman of the police board, said his retirement have nothing to do with the scathing allegations.

After 35 years as a police officer, Lepine said he has long planned to leave when his contract ends in September.

"When a police board goes to secure a new police chief that process takes anywhere from six to nine months. I have been having discussions with the board around the succession planning for the department..."

Lepine said he sent his letter of retirement to the board last week before the employee survey was reported by the media.

"The announcement needed to happen now. It's not like I could have waited until March or April, anytime sooner we were in the Christmas season," he told The Outlook.

Lepine also said that he did not know about any of the harassment allegations and, if he did, action would have been taken to correct the situation.

The employee survey, obtained by The Province, says there is "a moderate-to-strong dissatisfaction and possibly serious disengagement because of some perceived behaviours of senior management..."

The District of West Vancouver received the employee survey in December and Smith said steps are being taken to address the allegations.

".... We've asked our management team to come forward with an action plan to address the fact that the results are less than satisfactory," said Smith at a press conference, adding there are no allegations against Lepine.

He said the police department will see personnel changes and a shift in the "culture of the department."

"We will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour by anybody that's trusted with a supervisory role in the District of West Vancouver," he added.

Lepine will end his service in September when his contract is up. The search for a new police chief will begin immediately.

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