Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/7/2020 (690 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg police officer has stepped down from the Bear Clan board of directors, after controversial social media posts resulted in a public call for her removal.
Const. Réjeanne Caron, who was the Saint Boniface—Saint Vital Conservative candidate in the 2019 federal election, had sat on the Bear Clan volunteer community patrol’s board for nearly two years.
Caron’s personal Twitter account, which was public up until recently, allegedly included tweets that suggested those who support the police defunding movement should not be allowed to call 911 and denied systemic racism in policing.
An online petition calling for her removal from the board, which had just more than 2,000 signatures before it was closed, was started by an anonymous Bear Clan member. The document said Caron had "used her social media presence to judge the community and to make excuses for police violence in an inappropriate and confrontational manner."
A statement from Caron on the matter, released July 2, did not acknowledge the tweets, but said she would be resigning. It further criticized Bear Clan executive director James Favel, stating he "used his position and our organization as a means to build his own public and political persona."
Favel said he had seen multiple tweets from Caron's account that came across as "racist and highly problematic," and said the Bear Clan has screenshot copies. He called the situation "disheartening" and the first time the volunteer group has had to deal with a situation like this.
"I feel badly that things went this way, but I do not feel badly for standing up for my community, I don’t feel the least bit awkward about resisting those ideologies," he said.
Plans were already underway to vote to remove Caron from her position on the board, Favel said, but she resigned the same day, before the group had a chance to do so.
The Bear Clan has a social media policy that dictates how volunteers should conduct themselves online, Favel said, but this incident will influence future edits made to governance documents.
Caron describes herself as a "front-line police officer" in her Twitter profile.
When asked to speak on the Winnipeg Police Service’s social media policy, a spokeswoman for the WPS noted Caron’s profile also included a statement that said: "The views expressed are my own," and the WPS would not comment further.
Favel said the situation was an example of the responsibility of the higher standard community representatives should work toward.
"You can’t be jumping on those bandwagons and sharing those ideologies and not expect to have some fallout," he said.
Winnipeg Police Board chairman and St. Norbert-Seine River Ward Coun. Markus Chambers said Monday he had no knowledge of the incident outside of what he’d seen on social media. He echoed Favel’s thoughts on the responsibility of public-service workers when operating on social media.
"It’s not just police officers, we’re all being held to a higher standard when it comes to these issues of the past where before there was less accountability, now we have to be accountable for our actions, what we say and what we do in the public space," he said.
It’s not a police board matter to look into the situation, Chambers said — complaints regarding officer conduct go through the WPS professional standards unit — but officers who have public lives online should know they could be perceived as speaking on behalf of the WPS.
"As an individual, if you say something, people might not take notice. But if you say something as a member of a police service, or a teacher’s union… if you represent yourself as a larger group, it could come back and definitely have repercussions," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.