Inner workings of police unveiled

-- Former homicide cop calls transfer 'crap' -- Sergeant's grievance heard by arbitrator

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He's used to staring down suspected killers and getting them to confess to their crimes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/07/2011 (4230 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He’s used to staring down suspected killers and getting them to confess to their crimes.

Yet one of Winnipeg’s most experienced homicide investigators says nothing could have prepared him for the “unethical and immoral” conduct he experienced from senior management within the police service.

Sgt. James Jewell pulled no punches Tuesday when giving his views of several direct supervisors, including police Chief Keith McCaskill, during the first day of a week-long arbitration hearing.

Sgt. James Jewell

The hearing put the inner workings of the police service under a rare public microscope. Jewell has filed a grievance with the provincial labour board, claiming he was unjustly transferred out of the homicide unit in March. He claims it was a “punitive” act for speaking out about changes in the unit.

“I always felt a debt of gratitude to the police service, but I draw the line when people misrepresent and lie,” Jewell told arbitrator Arne Peltz. “What happened is a bunch of crap. There’s no other way to describe it.”

McCaskill and other members of the police executive are expected to testify at the hearing later this week.

“I do hold the chief of police responsible for what happened,” said Jewell. “I don’t think the transfer policy was meant to be used like a sledgehammer over people’s heads, but that’s what he did.”

Jewell has been a police officer for 24 years and was appointed as one of the two supervising sergeants of the eight-member homicide unit in 2009. He had previously worked as an investigator in the unit, as well as working in many other specialized departments.

Jewell wasn’t in his new position long before he began expressing concern about an internal police policy that requires homicide investigators to be moved out of the unit after three years. Jewell said the quick turnover isn’t good because there is a steep learning curve for new investigators.

“Being able to retain experience has always been an issue. The investigations are intense; the stakes are very high,” he said. “When you’re turning over and bringing new people in all the time, you’re starting from ground zero.”

Jewell was asked by senior management to sit on a committee last year to study homicide unit operations. One of their recommendations was to increase tenure to five years.

But Jewell said police brass ignored that finding. He became frustrated earlier this year after learning two homicide investigators were to be transferred after three years, as per existing policy. Jewell said he recommended they be given extensions.

Jewell appealed to his direct supervisors — Staff Sgt. Mike Stephens and Insp. Rick Guyader — but his request was denied. Guyader and Stephens had just come into the homicide unit weeks earlier, replacing the supervising team that brought Jewell on board.

Jewell said he felt the only logical move was to have a meeting with McCaskill, who has told officers he has an open-door policy. Jewell said Stephens warned him that “certain people aren’t going to be impressed by you going over their heads.”

Jewell met with McCaskill on March 11. He said McCaskill was happy to discuss the issue but was of little assistance during a cordial, 45-minute chat. The two transfers would go through.

“I felt I had an obligation to the community to do the right thing for this unit,” he said. “(McCaskill) said he respected me and the passion I had for the unit, but that he was sorry he couldn’t do anything for me.”

Jewell was called into Guyader’s office four days later. Stephens was also present. The pair said they were transferring Jewell out of the homicide unit. The only explanation was that they were exercising their right to do so, under existing policy.

“It was essentially a blindside,” said Jewell. “I knew some people may have been unhappy with me going to the chief. I never thought my job would be in jeopardy. I thought those tactics were fairly prehistoric and we were past that. I’d crossed the wrong guy.”

Jewell said he was flooded with calls and emails from nearly 300 past and present officers who were furious with what was done to him.

“They are completely demoralized,” he said.

The Winnipeg Police Association filed a grievance, claiming police management violated protocol by transferring Jewell without cause or fair warning.

Jewell has since accepted a position within the St. James district until he maxes out his pension at 25 years of service next spring. He said the transfer cost him tens of thousands of dollars in overtime and he now does a desk job he equates to being a “Walmart greeter.”

www.mikeoncrime.com

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 8:39 AM CDT: Corrects name of Insp. Rick Guyader.

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