On August 23, 2011, I spent the day at Grand Beach with my son and one of his little buddies.
Grand Beach is located approximately 80 kilometres north of our City on Lake Winnipeg, the sixth largest lake in Canada.
It was a perfect day, the sun was shining, the skies were clear blue and the breeze was gentle and soothing. We were enjoying the last of our summer holidays, wading into the water, jumping waves and soaking up the glorious sunshine.
After the hearing I decided to decompress. It was time to relax, enjoy life and be patient while I awaited the Arbitrator’s decision which was expected to be rendered in late fall.
I’d been out in the water for about half an hour when I returned to my beach chair and noticed a message on my phone. I picked it up, punched in my password, opened the phone app and hit play;
“Hey James, Keith LaBossiere calling on Tuesday at about four o’clock, just coming out of a hearing, we just got the decision from Arne Peltz, I haven’t read it yet, but the bottom-line is we won, give me a call.”
I really couldn’t believe what I’d heard. I listened to the message several times, as if I was afraid my ears were playing tricks on me. No, I heard it right, we won. It was over, vindication was finally mine.
It was an amazing feeling, one that nearly overwhelmed me.
The surreal news started a barrage of supportive telephone calls, text messages, emails and visits from family, friends, neighbours, coworkers and retirees. The support was outstanding.
The victory was extraordinary.
Little guys rarely win when it comes to taking on a big Corporation.
The odds didn’t stop us and the victory was so so sweet.
When I received a copy of the decision I was flabbergasted. It was clear the Arbitrator had the insight and analytical ability to see through all the bullshit. The best part, he didn’t mince words in his eighty-six (86) page written decision.
Mr Peltz made the following findings summarized as follows:
- The “one plus one” transfer rule is a policy but not the practice.
- I was the first and only person noted in evidence to have been transferred under the “one plus one” policy without performance, personality, succession planning or accommodation issues.
- Stephens made the prophetic warning despite the fact he denied making it
- The “fresh ideas” rationale was a “flimsy justification” and neither Guyader nor Stephens could articulate any substantive reason for pursuing “fresh ideas.”
- Guyader and Stephens actions were not consistent with a genuine search for “fresh ideas.”
- The explanations given were “nebulous” and not susceptible to any real evaluation.
- The explanations were not plausible and undermined their credibility.
- He was left in doubt as to the credibility of their explanation for the transfer.
- The witnesses for the Police Service were evasive, inconsistent, unconvincing, contrived and convenient. They were misleading and repeatedly deceptive. They lacked credibility and candour.
The witnesses for the Police Service were evasive, inconsistent, unconvincing, contrived and convenient. They were misleading and repeatedly deceptive. They lacked credibility and candour.
- The transfer was essentially disciplinary and was in response to my continuing efforts to fight the transfer policy.
- The predominant purpose of the transfer was punitive.
- “1 +1” was adopted as a convenient cover.
- The negative impact on my career was “massive.” Both financially and psychologically.
- The Service must have known the treatment afforded to me would be “humiliating.”
- The Service acted on a hidden ulterior motive, which constituted bad faith.
- “The case was egregious. The transfer process was infused with punitive intent and tainted by bad faith.”
- “I have no hesitation in finding the Service breached its obligation to act fairly and reasonably in administering the Collective Agreement in respect of the Griever’s transfer.”
- The lack of candor and unfairness was patent.
- The grievance is upheld.
It was a powerful ruling.
The only question left related to “remedy.”
I would learn securing a remedy after a win in the arbitration world is not as simple as I would have thought.
I hoped to be reinstated but that clearly was not going to happen based on the conversations that were taking place. It was apparent the Police Service had no intent to move or punish Guyader or Stephens, and I surely could never, and would never work for those two characters again.
The fact no one in involved in the conspiracy would be held accountable was a hot topic of conversation in the Police Service.
With such a strong ruling condemning the conspirators, surely “heads had to role” or so the rank and file officers thought, but there would be no repercussions for Hart, Guyader or Stephens.
No admonishment, no internal charges, no demotions and no transfers.
No admonishment, no internal charges, no demotions and no transfers. No nothing.
Many people, including myself, were stunned by the lack of accountability. Ultimately, it made sense. The conspiracy may have been bold but it was certainly not complex. It wasn’t hard to figure out.
When I analyzed the situation I arrived at my own conspiracy theory;
How could the Chief possibly act?
How could he punish Guyader & Stephens if they were mere “middlemen” in the conspiracy?
If Stephens was punished he would be entitled to file a grievance with the Winnipeg Police Association. Stephens undoubtedly had “the goods” that could essentially blow up the entire Executive of the Police Service.
The Chief simply could not afford to risk this scenario.
If Guyader was punished the same scenario could potentially play out.
That leaves Hart.
What kind of media nightmare would be created if either Guyader or Stephens were punished and pointed the finger at Hart who had previously provided sworn evidence she had no involvement in the ugly affair.
Might these types of revelations instigate a sweeping internal or criminal investigation?
What options would the Chief have then?
Could he punish Hart, a Deputy Chief under his command?
Moreover, what responsibility could be ascribed to the Chief himself?
The Chief may not have played a “direct” role in this mess but the question remained; did he discharge his duty to ensure officers under his command were treated fairly or was he “willfully blind” to the treachery and corruption?
Ultimately, I believe the conspirators put the Chief in a very bad position.
McCaskill decided to simply make it go away.
Hence no punishment and no accountability.
The settlement would have to center on some sort of financial resolution.
On October 17, 2011, the Winnipeg Police Association and the Winnipeg Police Service agreed on terms for resolution. The agreement came with the requirement to sign a confidentiality agreement to which I am now bound.
The agreement also included a signed apology letter from the Chief of Police.
The confidentiality agreement does not pertain to the apology letter. I received it via email from the President of the Police Association. The manner in which it was delivered led me to question the sincerity of the content.
The agreement also meant the last rites had been delivered on my Police Career.
My last day of service would be on May 1, 2012.
On May 3, 2012, family and friends attended a retirement function in my honor. It was a wonderful event that included speeches and roasts from several of my closest colleagues, partners and mentors from the past.
I was presented with my certificate of Service from Police Chief Keith McCaskill.
He was invited to the party by my former partner, party organizer and emcee Detective Thane Chartrand.
I give the Chief credit for having the courage to attend the function without having any prior knowledge of the content of my acceptance speech.
For the record, I went easy on him.
All was forgiven.
When I reflect on my Police Career I have only positive things to say.
It was always more than just a job to me. It was a great responsibility and honor to serve and protect the citizens of the City of Winnipeg. I always came to work ready to sacrifice and do whatever I had to do to get the job done. I was fully committed to the WPS and executed my duties with tremendous enthusiasm and passion.
I had great partners and relish our memories.
When I took a leadership role in the Police Service I was determined to educate young officers and inject them with the same narco-passion I had for the job.
I know I was successful in that regard.
I’m grateful to the Winnipeg Police Service for providing a farm kid with a GED an opportunity to secure employment in one of the greatest shows on earth.
99% boredom / 1% sheer terror.
As I previously indicated, The Corporate Power Broker series was inspired by a British Columbia Criminology student who used my case as subject matter in an Ethics and Accountability presentation.
Most students selected topics regarding police use of force.
The student received an “A” for the presentation and provided the following feedback;
“The students shared the same reaction as everyone else who has heard about your situation, and were specifically upset about Guyader and Stephens not being disciplined. They also thought I was joking around when I mentioned the part about Larson being conveniently promoted in order to be eligible for your position. My question period was almost as long as the presentation itself! Our professor eventually had to cut us off. I want to thank you again so much for replying to me and for giving me more information to use in my presentation, I am incredibly appreciative!”
Ethics & Accountability in Law Enforcement are extremely important principles.
I proudly served the Winnipeg Police Service for twenty-six (26) years. Mr Peltz was correct when he characterized my transfer as, “humiliating and psychologically devastating.” The experience was much like losing someone you love. I experienced shock, anger, grief, sadness and healing.
The humiliation is difficult to deal with. I was a loyal, hard-working member of the Winnipeg Police Service. I did nothing wrong, yet the sense of embarrassment and humiliation I felt was almost debilitating. The conspirators put an indelible stain on me and an exceptional police career and I resented them for it.
The survivor in me now embraces the events and celebrates the silver linings.
I’m grateful for a balanced life and opportunities to be more present in the lives of the people who mean most to me. For the first time in my life I’ve put more effort into my family than my career. I can’t fully express how rewarding and meaningful that is.
It’s important to remember there were only three (3) people directly involved in the treachery that ended my career. They represent only a micro percentage of the men and women of the WPS and their time in the power grid was relatively brief.
During my career I had the privilege of working with literally hundreds of honourable men and women.
This story wasn’t about vengeance, or spite and wasn’t written to drag the names of certain people through the mud as some have suggested.
This story was about vigorously confronting the morally bankrupt power brokers who play games with the lives and careers of the people below them in the food chain. These people need anonymity so they can continue to rise up the ranks, unchallenged in their quest for greater power. That’s why it’s important for people to challenge them and expose them for what they are. That’s how we keep corrupt leaders out of powerful positions, by having the courage to confront them as they climb up the ladder.
This story is about accountability.
This story is about supporting employees who’ve been unfairly treated by management. It was about providing them with the tools they might need to fight for their rights.
This story is about reinforcing and age-old principle, “You should always treat others the way you would like to be treated.”
It’s really that simple.
Thank you for reading.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Chief Keith McCaskill
- On December 9, 2012, McCaskill officially retired from the Winnipeg Police Service.
Deputy Chief Shelley Hart
- In February, 2014, Hart officially retired from the Winnipeg Police Service. She is currently running for the Office of Mayor for the town of East St Paul.
- She apparently hasn’t lost her lust for power.
- After reading the last instalment of Corporate Power Brokers – The Arbitration “Shock & Awe” former WPS Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias commented; “I see Ms. Hart is now running for political office. Based on your assessment she would appear to have all the skills required to be a successful politician.”
Inspector Rick Guyader
- Guyader is still employed with the Winnipeg Police Service and is currently assigned as Commander of the West District Station.
Staff Sergeant Mike Stephens
- Stephens is also still employed with the Winnipeg Police Service. He was recently transferred to District 3 Uniform Operations. Much to the surprise of many Stephens entered the promotion competition in the fall of 2011. He was not successful.
Detective Sergeant Wes Rommel
- Rommel was recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant and was transferred this spring to the Homicide Unit where he is now responsible for running Homicide Unit operations.
Detective Sergeant Darryl Kostiuk
- Kostiuk was also promoted to the rank of Sergeant and is currently supervising criminal investigations in District 3. Staff Sergeant Mike Stephens is Kostiuk’s immediate supervisor.
Detective Sergeant Brent Black
- On July 16, 2014, after a total of over 30 years Police Service, Black retired from the WPS.
GLOBAL IMPACTS OF TRANSFER:
The global impacts of the punitive transfer are undeniable. It still amazes me how far morally bankrupt executives will go to orchestrate the evil plans they hatch. The list is by no means exhaustive but does reflect some of the major impacts;
WPS Promotion System
- After significant corruption in the WPS promotion system was exposed during the hearing, the Winnipeg Police Association was successful in their bid to rewrite the promotion system and introduced features designed to inject integrity into the process.
- The City of Winnipeg was required to pay compensation to unsuccessful candidates in the 2011 Sergeant competition.
Homicide Unit Rank Structure
- In order to justify their treachery, the conspirators made a policy change excluding all officers holding the rank of Constable from the Homicide Unit.
- This move effectively excluded the largest talent pool in the entire Police Service and dramatically reduced opportunities for talented female Constables interested in investigating the ultimate crime.
The WPS Executive
- With one of the most scathing arbitrated decisions ever rendered in Manitoba Labour, the WPS Executive essentially lost all credibility when it came to WPS core values like integrity, respect and accountability.
- How does a Police Organization enforce discipline when the Executives at the top of the food chain have zero credibility?
- The Organization had to dramatically change and did in November 2012 when Superintendent Devon Clunis was promoted to the rank of Chief of Police. Clunis formerly served the WPS in the capacity of Police Chaplain and was known as a man who possessed an incredibly high code of moral conduct.
The Homicide Unit
- The blind side transfer meant absolutely no Corporate knowledge was transferred to the new Homicide Unit Sergeants. Corporate knowledge and continuity are extremely important commodities in Homicide Investigation. Ongoing murder investigations, witness protection issues, unsolved murder cases and officer involved shootings all suffered as a result.
- The transfer destroyed morale, created turmoil and instability.
- Despite Guyader’s confidence that it wouldn’t be long before Sergeant Larson was, “up to snuff,” she voluntarily transferred out of the Homicide Unit after two (2) years into her four (4) year assignment.
- The other Sergeant who transferred into the Unit with Larson retired from the Police Service after approximately two (2) years into his assignment.
- The supervisory departures created issues associated with high unit turnover, instability, uncertainty, lack of continuity and succession planning.
- Nevertheless, the men and women working in the Homicide Unit persevere, work the long hours and continue their sacrifice despite the turmoil created by the Corporate Power Brokers.
Inside sources indicate the WPS is set to change the transfer policy to extend tenure for criminal investigators in the Homicide Unit.
It’s believed the unethical changes to the rank structure will soon be rescinded.
“It’s a little out of the box thinking. I’m the one who’s ultimately accountable. Time will tell whether I’m right or wrong,” Guyader said during his testimony at the hearing.
I think the verdict is in.