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This article was published 6/7/2011 (4054 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A troubling picture is emerging of the Winnipeg police homicide unit -- one that includes bullish management, poor communication, low morale and a lack of experienced investigators.
Two homicide unit members testified Wednesday that the eight-person team was rocked earlier this year by the sudden transfer of Staff Sgt. James Jewell. They pointed the finger directly at police brass who they believe tried to send Jewell a message at the expense of the unit's high-stakes work.
Jewell filed a grievance with the provincial labour board, saying he was the victim of a "punitive" act for speaking out about changes in the department, including the pending transfer of two investigators. He learned of his transfer on March 15 -- four days after going above his chain-of-command to appeal to Chief Keith McCaskill.
"It makes absolutely no sense. I was completely shocked. I was angry. I just didn't understand the logic behind it," Det.-Sgt. Darryl Kostiuk told arbitrator Arne Peltz during the second day of a week-long public hearing. Det.-Sgt. Wes Rommel said senior management provided no explanation for the decision to remove Jewell but everyone knew the real reason. The unit is struggling to deal with the fallout, he said.
"Sgt. Jewell was an excellent leader. He has a passion and zest, not only for homicide but police work in general. He created an environment where everyone could have their say," Rommel said. "This was a detriment to the unit."
Police brass say Jewell was transferred as part of an attempt to take the homicide unit in a new direction and not as a form of punishment. But Jewell and his former investigators said that makes no sense considering the only other supervisor in the unit, Staff Sgt. Ken Shipley, retired earlier this year.
All of the officers testified that removing Jewell only weeks after Shipley's exit left the homicide unit without experienced leadership. As well, there had been major turnover among the eight investigators -- the exact issue Jewell had fought to prevent.
"I thought this was completely unfair. I've always heard the chief has an open door. What Sgt. Jewell was doing was for the good of the unit and the betterment of the police service to ensure experienced officers stayed in the unit," said Kostiuk. "This goes against everything I've ever heard about succession planning. It appears they were trying to fix something that wasn't broken."
Jewell, a police officer for 24 years, was appointed as a supervising sergeant of the homicide unit in 2009. He expressed concern about a policy that moves homicide investigators out of the unit after three years and was asked by senior management to sit on a committee last year to study homicide unit operations. One recommendation was to increase tenure to five years, but brass ignored that finding, Jewell said.
Jewell learned earlier this year that two homicide investigators were to be transferred after three years, as per existing policy.
He asked his direct supervisors, Staff Sgt. Mike Stephens and Insp. Rick Guyader, to give them extensions, but his request was denied. Guyader and Stephens had started with the homicide unit weeks earlier, replacing the team that brought Jewell on board.
Jewell said he then met with McCaskill, though Stephens warned him "certain people aren't going to be impressed by you going over their heads," and was told the transfers would go through. Four days later, Jewell was shown the door.
"The chain of command I was dealing with was not only acting hypocritically, but acting without a lot of integrity," Jewell said Wednesday. "I think there's an expectation from employees that they will be treated fairly. Principles aren't just for rank-and-file members. They should go from the top all the way to the bottom."
The hearing continues today with Guyader's testimony. McCaskill is also expected to testify this week.
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.