Corporate Power Brokers

Corporate Power Brokers – The Winds of War (Part II)

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Winnipeg Free Press

The Elizabeth Lafantaisie murder was the seventh (7th) reported homicide in 2011.

The good news was we managed to solve all seven (7) cases achieving a 100% solvency rate.

The bad news was scuttlebutt around the station indicated the Executive of the Police Service would not be implementing any of the Homicide Review Panel Recommendations in the spring.

That meant we were right back where we started. Three (3) of our Detectives had their heads back on the chopping blocks, two of whom had only spent two years in their assignments.  The issue was starting to annoy me.  It was absurd, someone needed to step up and start supporting us, unfortunately, that support was nowhere in sight.

In mid February Staff Sgt Stephens came to my office to discuss the issue of transfers.  I was shocked when he said, “I don’t feel the argument,” in response to my ongoing struggle to spare our Detectives from transfer.  His lack of professional language aside, this was a clearly hypocritical position given that a few short months ago he joined me and other Homicide Review Panel members in making a unanimous recommendation to extend tenure in our Unit.  

The sudden change of philosophy was extremely troubling to me, after all, people’s careers hung in the balance, not to mention the operational ability of the Homicide Unit.

Stephens offered no reasonable explanation for his change of heart other than “I don’t feel the argument.”

I fired back, “If you don’t feel it, then who’s going to feel it?”

I fired back, “If you don’t feel it, then who’s going to feel it?”

His inability to provide any sensible justification irked me.  I told Stephens I considered transfers to be a live issue, an issue that preceded his and Inspector Guyaders’ assignments to the Crime Division.  It was common knowledge I initiated a challenge to the transfer policy over a year ago.  I made my intentions clear, I was ready to take the fight directly to the Chief of Police if I couldn’t get support in my chain of command.

It was at this point Stephens said, “Certain people won’t be impressed if you go over their heads.”

“Really,” I thought to myself.

While I didn’t necessarily take his comment as a threat, I would’ve been naive not to interpret it as a warning.

I fired back, “Who are you talking about Inspector Guyader, Deputy Chief Hart?”

I really didn’t have to ask.  I knew who the “certain” people were but that didn’t matter much at this point.  Guyader had been completely aloof and was heavily involved in the promotion competition for the rank of Sergeant.  The transfer policy was the brainchild of Deputy Hart and she was determined to administer it with an iron fist.  It was clear I had one option.  I was backed into a corner and had to make a decision.  Fight the fight or lay down and let them sacrifice our people.  The decision was an easy one.

I told Stephens I owed it to my Detectives to take the fight as far as I could because that’s what I believed a leader with integrity would do.  A true leader fights for their people with all of their God-given strength and ability.  I informed him the only option left was for me to take the issue to the Office of the Chief of Police and access his, “open door policy.”

(It was important to me to be upfront with Stephens so no one in my chain of command would get the impression I was trying to use the back door or run an “end around” play.  That’s not how I played the game.)

In response, Stephens remarked, “Well then, do what you gotta do.”

On February 27, 2011, Inspector Guyader assumed command of the Crime Division.

On March 7, 2011, I attended a meeting at Stephens’ request and was informed that two of the three Detectives at issue were to be transferred.  Stephens facilitated the extension of a Detective Sergeant solely on the basis the Officer’s status as an affiant categorized him as essential personnel.  The other two (2) Detectives were expendable.  

Immediately after receiving the bad news I called the Executive Offices and booked an appointment with the Chief for Friday, March 11 at 1:30 pm.

On March 8, 2011, I wrote a second report to the Chief strongly articulating the rationale for retaining the Detectives in the Unit.

The argument was strong, so strong I firmly believed the Chief would have to do the “right” thing.

(Keep in mind the Chiefs Executive Assistant gave me every expectation I had the Chief’s full, albeit, unofficial support on the issue.)

On March 11, 2011, at 1:30 pm, I dutifully attended the Chief’s Office to plead my case.  Upon arrival the Chief advised he’d read my report but was not prepared to overrule a decision made by one of his Commanders.  He explained that in the early stages of his career as Chief he’d undermined decisions of his Commanders and it proved to poison his working relationship with several of the officers on his Executive Management Team.

In response I challenged him to reconsider his position based on the very leadership principles recently adopted by the Police Service and fed to middle managers like me.  Those principles suggested a “leader” must act if a subordinate makes a decision that is illegal, immoral or unethical.

While I realized the decision to transfer the investigators wasn’t illegal, it certainly seemed both unethical and immoral considering the Review Panel’s recommendation to extend tenure.  The move also contradicted many of the lofty principles stated in WPS transfer policy.

As if these considerations weren’t enough, I stressed the negative impacts the transfers would have on the officer’s careers, on the operational ability of the Homicide Unit and on our team morale.

As if these considerations weren’t enough, I stressed the negative impacts the transfers would have on the officer’s careers, on the operational ability of the Homicide Unit and on our team morale.

In all, I bent the Chief’s ear for over thirty-five minutes.

Unfortunately, he was not moved by my argument.

He did however, thank me for supporting my people and for being a strong advocate for the Homicide Unit.  He assured me I had his respect for doing so.

After the meeting, I broke the news to the investigators who were extremely disappointed and just as perplexed as I was regarding the idiotic position taken by the people in our chain of command.  Strict adherence to policy at the expense of our people, our unit, and ultimately, our Organization.

None of it made any sense.

Nor did the arguments the Chief made in support of his Commander.

It was clear something was afoot.

Behind the scenes changes were being made to the Homicide Unit’s rank structure and personnel were being selected for transfer into the Unit behind my back.  Staff Sergeant Stephens was providing schizophrenic direction that left us all scratching our heads in bewilderment.  Historically, the Homicide Unit Sergeant (s) were consulted regarding any change that would affect the operation of the Unit.  It was all very bizarre and was happening under a mysterious cloak of secrecy.  

In a normal, productive, healthy work environment, none of these things occurred.

It wouldn’t take long to solve the mystery.


The Blindside

On Tuesday, March 15, 2011, at 9:45 am, the fog lifted.

I was asked to report to Inspector Guyaders’ Office.

Upon attending, I observed Stephens sitting in a chair by a table with his arms resting on his thighs and a fixed gaze staring down at the floor.  His body language gave me all the warning I needed to know something really bad was about to happen.  

Guyader broke the silence, “I’m invoking the transfer policy one plus one rule and you are being transferred.”

“Transferred!”

The word reverberated inside my head.

I’ll never forget the smug look of satisfaction etched on Guyader’s face as he waited for my reaction.

I admit, I was stunned.  My heart started pounding and I could feel the temperature rising inside of my body.  As the adrenaline started to rush through my veins I struggled to fight off every natural instinct I had.

I admit, I was stunned.  My heart started pounding and I could feel the temperature rising inside of my body.  As the adrenaline started to rush through my veins I struggled to fight off every natural instinct I had.

I realized I had to control myself and that punching my boss in the face was not a good option.

It was at this critical point years of SWAT team training came into effect.  High pressure situations and training exercises under chaotic conditions had enhanced my ability to stay calm during highly volatile situations.  I was acutely aware of my situation and was never going to give this guy the pleasure of having me lose it so he could add insult to injury by dropping some bullshit disciplinary charge (s) on me.

I turned on the “switch,” politely thanked him and left his office.

It was clear the man enjoyed the entire exchange and I refused to make it better for him by showing any outward signs of hurt, anger or hostility.

Stephens never did lift his shiny bald head.

So there it was, the curt blindside transfer exactly one business day after my meeting with the Chief.

The message was clear, I had the balls to fight for my people and for that, my sentence was the destruction of my Police Career.  The treachery surprised even me.  The game was on.  I suspected we were going to be heading to war so battle preparations began.

When you go to war with Corporate Power Brokers a winning strategy is essential.  The minute you suspect you’re heading in that direction you must start to strategize and identify the essential components required for a winning game plan.

Components like;

  • Strategy
  • Establishing Credibility
  • Documentation – including notes, email, policy et al
  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Articulation
  • Preparation

You need to ask yourself important questions before the hostilities become formal.

Questions like;

  • How do I beat the Corporate Power Brokers when they are backed by the power of a Corporation?
  • Where do I stand?
  • What is the key issue?
  • How am I going to win?

In this case, I immediately realized fairness was going to be a key issue.

The first favor Guyader did for me was to divulge his reliance on Police Service policy to back his play. “I’m invoking the transfer policy one plus one rule and you are being transferred.”

Sure you are, I don’t think so.

As a middle manager I had a thorough understanding of what the “one plus one” policy was and knew it was going to be a hard sell for him.

When it comes to policy an important thing to remember is policy and “practice” are often very different things.  The important thing to consider is the practical application of the policy.  You must have a keen understanding of the policy, but more important, you must have a thorough understanding of the practical application of the policy and how it’s been historically administered in your operations.

In this case, the distinction was extremely important.  

The “one plus one” policy essentially meant every employee was subject to transfer on an annual basis.  After completing one year in an assignment an employee may be “extended” a further year on a one 1+1+1+1 basis, up to a maximum designated term.  That’s what the policy said. The practice was much different as employees almost always remained in their assignments until they reached their maximum allowable term.

In my case, I was only three (3) years into an assignment that had a maximum designated term of four (4) years.  As a senior officer in the twilight of my career, I also had the option of using a “retirement exemption” that would entitle me to one extra year of service in the Homicide Unit.  As a result, I had every expectation I still had two (2) years of eligibility left to work in the Homicide Unit.  Two (2) more years of eligibility that was mercilessly snuffed out by my new Divisional Commander.

Guyader was punishing me using policy as a convenient cover, I knew it, he knew it and Stephens, Hart and McCaskill all knew it.

Guyader was punishing me using policy as a convenient cover, I knew it, he knew it and Stephens, Hart and McCaskill all knew it.

It was going to be up to me to prove it.  

With over two decades of experience putting criminal cases together I knew a thing or two about proving things!

When you go to war with Corporate Power Brokers documentation is your friend.

Exactly three (3) minutes after my blind side I started to put my strategy into effect.

I knew it was going to be important to establish my credibility and start the process of accumulating email correspondence to help my cause.  In reality, I started to sense something was up and began the process of accumulating email documentation weeks before the blindside.  A number of these email transmissions were tendered at my hearing and provided significant evidence to support my case.

  • Important – listen to your intuition when it tells you something may be up.
  • Important – keep email, volumes of it if you have to, you never know what may be relevant if Corporate Power Brokers sabotage your career and force you to go to war.

I had no doubt, Hart, Guyader & Stephens were part of a conspiracy to punish me for going over their heads to the Chief of Police.

As a result, I realized some form of documentation from the Chief could be critical to my case.

I decided to go on a fishing trip, and if you’ve ever gone fishing in the Province of Manitoba, you know you can never predict what you might catch.  Corresponding with the Chief provided an opportunity to put some context on my transfer.  I knew the transfer was punitive and wanted my position to be on the record right from the start.

I fired the first shot at 9:48 that morning;


“From: Jewell, James 


Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:48 AM

To: McCaskill, Keith

Subject:  

Keith…..   I was just advised by my new Divisional Commander that I am being transferred based on the one plus one transfer policy…….   Retribution is swift around here………   Not even I could have imagined that our leadership could stoop this low…..   Regards;   James Jewell.”  


I didn’t have to wait long for the Chiefs reply;

“From: McCaskill, Keith 

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:30 AM

To: Jewell, James

Subject: 

James: As I indicated to you when we spoke I have given the Divisional Commanders the authority to run their divisions and that I would not interfere with transfers. James, I believe you are a good man and if you are going to be transferred I have no doubt you have the ability to do well wherever you go and influence people in a very positive way. From your e-mail there is no doubt you are obviously very upset.  I think however you have a lot of strength and will overcome this. I have a thought about a position you may be interested in. If you are interested in discussing the position please give me a call. Keith.”


So, the Chief had no intention of intervening or doing the right thing but he did have the gall to offer me a bullshit job to placate me.  It was a tremendous insult and proved to me McCaskill had lost whatever respect he might have once had for the common man.

The Chief’s reply begged a response and I seized the opportunity to acquire further documentation to help my cause.  The next bullet I fired would clarify my case further, the transfer was punitive and in direct retaliation for our meeting.

The email laid it all out;

“From: Jewell, James 

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 12:06 PM

To: McCaskill, Keith

Subject: 

It is more than abundantly clear to me that this transfer is completely punitive and is in direct response to my meeting with you on Friday regarding the decision to transfer the Plain Clothes Constables from this unit.   I would never have believed that fighting for the best interests of the Homicide Unit, and ultimately the Police Service, would result in such an overt act of hostile retribution.   Ultimately I don’t regret fighting for what I believe is right and will suffer the consequences.   You have been very open and approachable relative to issues that impact individual members and operations of Units within our Police Service and I am very disturbed your open door policy will result in the door being closed on my career.   I appreciate your comments and the potential proposition, however, as you know, I am currently working in a position where my passion has led me and was looking forward to ending my career in the Homicide Unit.   There are many of us that are shocked and disappointed that this kind of abuse of power could take place under your leadership.   I am going to require some time to digest this atrocity.   With respect……….James Jewell.”


Even if the email correspondence never became evidence, it felt good to vent and express my disgust with his Corporate Power Brokers.

The Chief provided his final response;

“From: McCaskill, Keith 

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 3:56 PM

To: Jewell, James

Subject:

James: Your comments are very concerning. I am told however the transfer decision had nothing to do with your meeting with me. Having said that the matter is apparently with the WPA now and therefore it is appropriate that any further discussions on the matter from this point forward take place with the WPA. Thanks Keith.”


Interesting reply I thought, I was wondering who told him my transfer had nothing to do with “the meeting.”  I was guessing Guyader told him that.  It occurred to me he might have wanted to scrutinize Guyader’s analysis a bit deeper than he did.

My last email transmission fully articulated my case and contained information regarding Staff Sergeants Stephen’s prophetic warning.  I recognized the fact the “warning” would be a central issue at an arbitration hearing and wanted to put it on the record.  Why would Stephens warn me if he didn’t anticipate I might suffer some form of consequence or retribution from Hart or Guyader?

Why would Stephens warn me if he didn’t anticipate I might suffer some form of consequence or retribution from Hart or Guyader?

Putting this information on the record at the earliest opportunity turned out to be a tactical stroke of genius.  When it came to trial Stephens denied, under oath no less, that he made the prophetic warning.

In the world of litigation credibility is everything.  Had I not raised the “prophetic warning” issue until trial, the Arbitrator would have undoubtedly viewed the “warning” as suspicious.  The fact the “warning” was put on the record the day after the transfer provided me with a tremendous amount of credibility.

Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed having the last word and fired off the final volley;


“From: Jewell, James


Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 9:33 AM

To: McCaskill, Keith

Cc: Walker, Keith

Subject: Transfer from Homicide

This, I promise, will be the last written communication I submit regarding this matter.  

I want you to know that in the last twenty-four hours I have received in excess of one hundred (100) phone calls, text messages and personal visits from supporters who are shocked and dismayed regarding my sudden transfer.   After twenty-four (24) years of dedicated service I feel somewhat entitled to defend myself and submit this last email.  As I tossed and turned during my sleepless night last night the irony of this situation dawned on me.  In order to gain proper perspective you have to review the historical facts.  

On 10-02-01 I submitted a special report to you relative to the issue of the WPS transfer policy and its negative impact on the operational ability of the Homicide Unit.   Ironically, I did so with the full knowledge, consent and support of my Divisional Commander Insp J McIsaac who signed off the document.   The issue was appropriately put off in abeyance during the Homicide review and subsequent deliberations of the Homicide Review Panel on which I was proud to serve.   After learning the issue relative to tenure was “off the table” for this years transfers, I believed the issue relative to the transfer policy was once again live and that it was my responsibility as a manager in the Unit to revisit the matter with you.  

In mid February I had discussions with SSgt Stephens and was shocked when he advised me that “he didn’t feel” the argument to retain the PCC’s in the Homicide Unit after what I stressed was an inadequate two (2) year assignment.  I personally felt the position taken by SSgt Stephens was highly hypocritical given that he also served on the Homicide Review Panel and unanimously joined panel members in making a recommendation to extend tenure in the Homicide Unit.  

I was also completely upfront with him when I told him that it was my intention to take the issue to your office if I could not find support in my chain of command.  

It dawns on me now that SSgt Stephens subtle warning that people in the chain of command might be offended by that action was much more than a subtle warning.   It’s also ironic that after our meeting last Friday, that you could shake my hand and express your respect for my efforts to support my unit and my people.   Despite the panels recommendations you were not convinced your Commanders decision was either immoral or unethical.  Although I respectfully disagreed, I understood and respected your decision to not interfere with the decision.  

Now this….one business day later and a curt dismissal from your Commander with no explanation other than the transfer policy “one plus one.”

Then an email from you saying it is your understanding that this decision had nothing to do with our meeting.  

If there is a modicum of truth in your statement, did it not occur to you that common decency might suggest that someone in my chain of command should share the relevant information with me?

As insulting as it is, I understand your need to circle the wagons and take the party line in that you won’t have any further discussions with me on the subject.   As far as I know, I am not breaching any policy or regulation in the submission of this final communication.   I know and you know that my dismissal from this unit had nothing to do with my performance as the Homicide Unit Supervisor. 

I appreciated the recent accolades you extended to me and members of my unit for excellent worked performed in the recent resolution regarding the Elizabeth Lafantaisie murder. Sadly, that appreciation seems somewhat hollow at this point.   I recall working under a similar regime when you were a potential candidate for Police Chief and I recall being a strong verbal supporter for you during a time when that support brought a certain risk to ones employment.  (You can confirm this with Supt Walker if you care to.) I have always considered you to be a man of integrity and a friend.      

I know at least one hundred Police Officers that strongly believe my dismissal from the Homicide Unit is absolutely corrupt, unethical and totally immoral.   The only question left is whether or not the Chief of Police is inclined to agree and do something about it.

FAIRNESS TO DIRECT REPORTS SKILLED

  • Treats direct reports equitably; acts fairly; has candid discussions; doesn’t have hidden agenda; doesn’t give preferential treatment.  

(Attached for pure irony)

Respectfully submitted;    

Sgt James G Jewell
Homicide Unit.”  
 
(Although the reference to Fairness to Direct Reports was meant as a shot at the Chief’s morally bankrupt administration, I knew this “competency” would form an integral part of any argument required to prove my transfer was punitive or patently unfair.)

So that was it, after twenty-four (24) years of dedicated service, personal sacrifice and hard work, this was my reward.

In pursuit of further documentation I challenged the rationale behind the transfer and demanded an explanation from Guyader.  The response provided was comical.  Guyader simply wanted to go in a different direction and bring someone into the unit “Who would bring fresh ideas and a new perspective.”  I was keenly interested to see how he could possibly articulate the demonstrated need to go in a new direction when one considered the fact our solvency rate was one of the highest in the Country.

It was significant his memo stated, “There are no performance issues related to Sergeant Jewell.”

The request for an explanation was a brilliant idea suggested by WPA President Mike Sutherland.   The receipt of the explanation turned out to be another major strategic accomplishment and would provide critical evidence regarding the deceit employed by the conspirators.

On a side note, my replacement in the Homicide Unit was to be newly promoted Patrol Sergeant Cheryl Larson, who had no previous experience in Homicide investigation.  An officer who had worked for Guyader in the recent past.  In fact, Guyader not only sat on her promotion panel, he promoted her and then transferred her into my former position.

(Coincidence or manipulation, that picture would become more clear in time.)

Morale in the Homicide Unit crashed and a mass exodus was contemplated.  I did all I could to avoid this scenario and used my influence to bring calm to our shaken team.  I saw absolutely no need to put the noose around anyone else’s neck.  It was clear, my career was over and there was no point in sacrificing anyone else’s.

I saw absolutely no need to put the noose around anyone else’s neck.  It was clear, my career was over and there was no point in sacrificing anyone else’s.

My family was devastated, wounded and angry.

My belief system was rocked and permanently damaged.

I completely lost faith in an organization I once loved and believed in.

I always felt the sacrifices we made for the job meant something.  The extremely long hours, the loss of sleep, the missed birthdays, weddings, holidays, parent teacher, all of it.  None of it mattered, and that was the hardest part to take.

On the upside, I received tremendous support from rank and file officers.  Hundreds of supportive and outraged telephone calls, emails and text messages.  The expressions of anger, hostility and sympathy were good medicine for me.  I never expected my support would be so broad-based as it came from all areas of the Police Service, rank and file officers, civilian staff and retired members.


The tone of the support was typified in an email I received from a respected investigator:

“From: XXXX XXXXXXXX

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 2:25 PM

To: Jewell, James

Subject:  

Hi, I heard what they did to you. That is disgusting and the lowest form of corruption after the work you put in. No matter how this turns out, you will never get that taste of betrayal out of your mouth. I know that your goal was always simple, solve murders and lock up killers. We are a piss poor mismanaged organization from the very top down. I am putting this in writing instead of a phone call because I hope it is intercepted.  

Detective XXX XXXXX
Investigator,
Winnipeg Police Service,
P.O. Box 1680,
Winnipeg, Manitoba,
R3C-2Z7
Cell: (204) XXX-XXXX”

There was no way I would take this atrocity laying down and I expressed those feelings to my former Commander Inspector McIsaac who, as you recall, was now the Chief’s right hand man.

I told him the “clowns” who were responsible for my transfer were not very clever when it came to their treachery.  I told him I had “the goods” on them, documentary evidence that would blow them away at an arbitration.  I told him if I was forced to fight it would be in a public forum and I wouldn’t pull any punches.  I told him it would be extremely embarrassing for Stephens, Guyader, Hart and the Chief.

I told him I didn’t want to be “that guy” and I implored him to have the Chief intervene.

Inspector McIsaac assured me he would deliver the message.  

Sadly, I never heard a thing back from him.

We were headed to arbitration.

The blindside transfer meant I now had a total of eleven (11) business days to try to find a new job.  By this time it was very late in the transfer game as the “good jobs” had been informally sewn up months ago.  I did make a few enquiries but quickly realized I had become “tainted goods.”

The value of my stock had crashed much like the rapid collapse of Nortel Networks.

The value of my stock had crashed much like the rapid collapse of Nortel Networks.

I quickly resigned myself to the fact I had to take a uniform position, and if I had to do that, I wanted to work at a station that was close to home.  So I put in a transfer request to work in District Two – General Patrol Uniform Operations.

To me, this transfer was equivalent to a death sentence.

District Two was commonly called “sleepy-hollow.”  

It’s borders included a large area primarily populated by hard-working, decent tax paying citizens.  I would come to learn the officers under my command would spend most of their time running from call to call in crime challenged areas like Downtown or the North End.

I would also soon find out the job of the District Two desk Sergeant was an exceedingly boring and lonely undertaking.  Many night shifts spent at the Sergeants desk, no officers in the station, no phone calls coming in, not one decision to be made.  I used to find myself waiting by the back door of the station when the officers returned for their lunch breaks.  When they arrived on scene I’d open the door and give them a warm welcome.

The standing joke was I’d seen my career go from Homicide Unit Supervisor to Walmart greeter.

I could have called it quits and retired at this point but I wasn’t going to give the conspirators the pleasure of seeing me surrender.

I would stick it out and see how things played out.

If I was going to retire, it was going to be on my terms.

NEXT WEEK: Corporate Power Brokers – The Arbitration – Shock & Awe

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3 Comments

  1. Another great read James!

    Below is some amazing advice!

    “Important – listen to your intuition when it tells you something may be up.”

    “Important – keep email, volumes of it if you have to, you never know what may be relevant if Corporate Power Brokers sabotage your career and force you to go to war.”

  2. “My belief system was rocked and permanently damaged.”

    Such a succinct and universal statement that applies to every individual targeted for abuse. To know, in no uncertain terms, that you have been treated unfairly when you had every reasonable expectation that your trust was justified is a really, really rude awakening. And that bitter taste- like biting on tinfoil with a fresh filling- becomes a familiar sensation no-one chooses.

  3. Interesting read James. It seems that bullies never expect the “little guy” to stand up for themselves and fight back. Good on you.

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