WE ARE MOTHERS, DAUGHTERS, WIVES & POLICE OFFICERS

CONSTABLE ANGELINA RIVERS

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Angie was born and raised in Guelph Ontario, where her mother worked as a dispatcher for the Guelph Police Service. This gave Angie rare insight to the policing world. She was drawn to the sense of pride and community service she saw in her mentors at the police service, and the family-like environment. Angie discovered her passion for the intricacies of law in a grade 11 law class, and knew then, policing was where she belonged. Despite becoming a young single mother at the end of high school, Angie never gave up on her dream. Angie graduated from Mohawk College, where she also worked part time as a Politics tutor. After several years of working full time in the private sector, and focusing on her daughter, Angie decided it was time to follow her dream of policing. Angie received offers of employment from OPP, Guelph, and Waterloo. Angie began her career with the Waterloo Regional police in 2006, where she enjoyed her first years on a platoon that felt like family to her. Angie was married in 2010, and welcomed another daughter in 2011. She thinks of her daughters as she pursues respect and equality for women in the workplace.

 

Angie would like to thank everyone who befriended and supported her along the way, she loved her job, and doesn’t regret a single moment of service to the community.

 

Angie served in WRPS as a Constable from December 2006 to 2016. During her time at WRPS, Angie experienced an extremely hostile and sexist work environment.  Specifically, Angie was subjected to acts of gender-based sexual harassment and discrimination, which included but were not limited to: unwanted sexual advances towards her; being ignored and isolated; constant and repeated offensive comments about her competence because she was a “girl”; sexually explicit text messages from her superior, a Sergeant, sent in the middle of the night telling her he was “naked and drunk,” and requested that she send him naked pictures of herself.  Such advances were wholly unwanted and unreciprocated.

 

Most concerning was the fact that Angie was refused back-up when she was dispatched to dangerous situations. When the isolation and bullying took a turn for the worst, jeopardizing Angie’s safety, she decided to report her concerns to WRPS superiors. The Response: male officers warned her to be careful about how she treated people or she would get her “ass kicked”.

 

Shortly after voicing her concern, Angie was transferred to a remote zone on the outskirts of Cambridge despite the fact that she objected to the transfer and voiced her concerns about the transfer being a form of reprisal for her speaking out.  

Almost immediately after voicing her concerns WRPS began to control and micromanage Angie’s time and performance. The physical isolation did not bring an end to the harassment and bullying from members of the WRPS. Angie’s superiors began micromanaging her work and time, demanding that she account for every minute of her work shift, including the time she spent on her washroom breaks.
 

Angie was constantly singled out without cause, reprimanded, berated, humiliated and disciplined for her work performance despite the fact that the male Members made more serious errors and their errors were overlooked or swept under the rug by her superiors.

 

One particular distressing incident occurred in March 2015. During making an arrest, Angie had custody of a 5-year-old girl who was clearly traumatized and hysterical because her mother was arrested and taken away by police. As Angie knew that it would take considerable time for family and children’s services to arrive, she opted to take the child inside the child’s own home so that the child could feel comfortable, use the bathroom, stay warm, and have something to eat. Her decision resulted in the WRPS charging her under the PSA for entering a house without authority, to which she was subsequently found guilty of discreditable conduct.

 

Shortly thereafter Angie was demoted from Detective to patrol officer for three infractions as minor as a scratch on her police car requiring repair (which had immediately been repaired after it had occurred).Meanwhile, the Sergeant who had sent Angie sexually explicit text messages, remained in a position of authority over female officers.

 

In August 2015, Angie launched a human rights complaint with the Human Resources division of the WRPS, which prompted an investigation that concluded in February 2016. To date, Angie has not received the results of the investigation despite her repeated requests.  

 

The atmosphere of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment that Angie encountered at WRPS had significant and negative effects on her physical and mental health. Angie has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, PTSD, unspecified trauma disorder, and alcohol abuse disorder. Her trauma is directly attributed to her work experience, gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment she endured at WRPS. Prior to her experience at WRPS, Angie had never had any mental health issues or alcohol abuse disorders, nor does Angie have a family history of any such disorders.

 

Angie has decided to launch this class action in hopes of preventing future female officers from going through the traumatizing experience she had to go through.

CONSTABLE SHARON ZEHR

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Sharon grew up in Kitchener.  She aspired to be a police officer since she was in the 8th grade after a police officer visited her classroom.  Sharon wanted to help people.

 

Sharon, served in WRPS as a Constable for two and a half years and left the force in 1991.

 

After successful completion of the Law & Security Administration Program at Fanshawe College and undergoing the constable selection process with the WRPS in 1988, Sharon was hired by WRPS and started her police career as a Cadet at the police headquarters in Kitchener.

 

She was proud, committed, and looking forward to a long and rewarding career at WRPS.

 

Immediately upon her commencement of employment at WRPS, Sharon was treated differently from her fellow male officers. On the first day of work, she was told by two male officers that they did not want her or any women on the force and that it was up to them “to get the women out”.

 

Sharon spent three months as a Cadet in Kitchener.  During her time, Sharon continued to experience gender-based discrimination and harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault. Her requests for assistance with any projects to which she was assigned were ignored and she was disproportionately reprimanded if those projects were accomplished in a less than perfect way.   She was also denied opportunities for additional training, which were routinely granted to male officers.

 

In October 1988, Sharon was transferred to Cambridge where she was the only female Cadet.  Despite the transfer, the acts of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment continued. These acts included, but are not limited to the following:

 

• When a male colleague found out that Sharon was prescribed birth control pills for her abdominal pain, he humiliated her in front of officers by repeatedly yelling, “free fucking”;

 

• Unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments directed at Sharon. For example, Sharon was paired with a male officer who drove Sharon to a remote and dark area and asked her to give him a “blow-job.”  Notwithstanding the fact that Sharon reported the incident to her training officer, the offending officer was never reprimanded or otherwise disciplined. In fact, Sharon was paired with the same male officer not long after the first incident, at which point he once again sexually harassed her by attempting to engage her in a discussion regarding various sex positions and inquiring as to her favourite sex position;

 

• Sharon was constantly subjected to degrading comments and name-calling by her fellow male colleagues, which over time, led to her developing an unwarranted reputation for being a sex symbol and/or bimbo;

 

• A male officer put his fist through half of Sharon’s sandwich as it was sitting in front of her on the table in the lunchroom;

• Sharon found her police hat in a workplace vending machine, forcing her to pay for it in order to be in full uniform and avoid being scolded by her superiors;

 

• A male officer took the gas card out of Sharon’s police cruiser, thereby preventing her from being able to refuel her police cruiser;

 

• Sharon attended an alarm call only to be startled by two male officers in hiding, who set off firecrackers near her; and,

 

• Sharon was rear-ended at a red light by a fellow male Constable who simply smiled and waved at her.

Out of fear for her safety and more unwarranted reprisals, Sharon did not report these offences but petitioned, applied and obtained a transfer to Kitchener. Despite the fact that there were three female officers in Kitchener, women did not have a change room and they had to use an old broom closet with no toilet or running water.

 

In or about December 1990, Sharon was called into her Sergeant’s office who advised her that he had written a negative-false-report stating that she had refused to come into work when ordered, along with other negative comments. When Sharon protested the accuracy of these comments the Sergeant advised her, “ya, but I wrote it in my notebook,” and to either “quit or get fired”.

 

Sharon experienced numerous sexual assaults, including but not limited to: being jumped on by a male constable, had her earlobe licked at a briefing by another male officer, being dragged into the male locker room, against her will, by five male officers.

 

Although Sharon contacted her WRPA representative to report the gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment she had experienced, she was advised that it would be too costly for the WRPA to take any actions regarding her allegations. The WRPA representative therefore did nothing whatsoever to address Sharon’s concerns.

 

The atmosphere of gender-based discrimination and harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault that Sharon encountered while working at WRPS had significant and negative effects on her physical and mental health, human dignity and sense of self-worth. After enduring this intolerable treatment for two and a half years, she quit the WRPS on January 31, 1991.

 

Despite leaving the WRPS, Sharon continued to experience a persistent stream of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment and bullying by the WRPS Members in her future work experiences, whenever they overlapped with the WRPS. The constant exposure to such a degrading culture created by the male Members of the WRPS greatly impacted Sharon’s mental and physical health. Consequently, in December 2015, Sharon sold her home and moved out of the Waterloo Region entirely.

 

Sharon has decided to launch this class action in hopes of bringing an end to systemic discriminatory police practices that continue to force women out or keep them in subordinate positions.

SUPERINTENDENT BARRY ZEHR

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Barry grew up in the small village of Tavistock.  As a young person, he admired the community work of the three local police officers.  After high school, he decided to become a police officer.  After college he was hired by the WRPS and he had strong family support to do so.

 

Barry is Sharon’s husband and is representing the Family Class in this class action. Barry retired as Superintendent from the WRPS in April 2017.

Barry has incurred expenses and loss of consortium, care, guidance and companionship as a result of the systemic and institutional gender-based discrimination and harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetrated against Sharon by the male Members of the WRPS, the WRPS senior officers and management, and the WRPA.