Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Royce Pollard Squelches City Council Dialogue

Yesterday afternoon, during one of the most important workshops of the City Council year, Vancouver caught a glimpse of the real Royce Pollard. He's been on good behavior during this election season, but every so often he slips--revealing his impatient and inconsiderate nature. During Council's review of the important Matrix study of our Police Department, Pollard quashed City Council discussion and attempted to pit Council Member against Council Member instead of facilitating productive discussion.

The Vancouver Police Department's current struggle with lawsuits, morale, and internal culture is one of the most important and most controversial matters facing the City. Yesterday afternoon, Monday, August 10th, the Vancouver City Council received a debrief from Police Chief Cliff Cook about an independent report that was completed to review the Internal Affairs, Disciplinary Process and Culture of the department -- the Matrix Report.

Over the past 19 years our Police force has struggled for continuity under 9 different Police Chiefs. Serious tension has developed between police management and the department's rank & file, and the City has paid out millions of dollars to settle several lawsuits that are mired in accusations of bias, discrimination and subjective enforcement of department policy.

The workshop was slated for two hours. Chief Cook spoke for about an hour, reviewing the report, defending his positions and the department, and explaining his intentions for next steps. At the conclusion of Chief Cook's presentation, the meeting then entered into a Q&A with councilmembers, rotating around the council for each member to comment and ask a question.

Given the serious nature of this matter, it was apparent and entirely understandable that Council would have numerous questions and comments. One round of questions was completed and a second started. However, at the very minute the one-hour session of Q&A was up, the Mayor summarily ended the session -- leaving half the City Council without opportunity to ask a second question.

Maintaining accurate schedules is important, but not at the expense of giving an important issue adequate review. What is most disconcerting about Pollard's action isn't just that he abruptly ended the session, but the argumentative way he did it.

Councilmember Smith and I both spoke up and requested additional time to ask a second question--with an extremely short agenda on deck for the upcoming council session, there was plenty of time and flexibility to allow extra questions.

Royce Pollard's response, however, didn't acknowledge this available time, nor advocate scheduling a second workshop to continue the discussion. Instead, he blamed other councilmembers for speaking too long and told us that "You'll need to talk to the other councilmembers about how much time they take in asking their questions."

This is Pollard's example of effective leadership? Instead of allowing three city councilmembers equal opportunity to ask a second question, instead of giving this important matter sufficient review, and instead of trying to find a common solution, Pollard pitted councilmembers against each other --- telling Smith, Leavitt and Campbell to take matters up with Jollota, Harris and Stewart about how much time they take commenting and asking questions.

This is entirely unacceptable. Suggesting that Smith, Campbell and I admonish other councilmembers to annotate their remarks is flat-out ludicrous.

How is this appropriate leadership, particularly on a matter as important as the health of the City's Police Department?

I look forward to bringing my own leadership style to Council as Mayor. My tenure as Chair of the C-Tran Board was extremely successful because of an intentionally collaborative style, and my willingness to afford officials on the board all the opportunity they needed to speak their minds. During that time, we made tremendous strides forward in setting policy for the agency. It will be my pleasure and honor to bring that style back to Vancouver, which has been missing it since Pollard took office as Mayor 14 years ago.

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