(Prime Time Crime exclusive Oct. 30, 2004)

Loyalty missing in chief’s leadership

By Leo Knight

In the ensuing weeks since I last wrote on the bizarre situation in the Calgary Police Service, where the Police Association commissioned a survey of their membership and more than 70% said they had no confidence in their chief and wanted him gone, a website has now sprung up calling Chief Jack Beaton “the most rotten apple of them all.”

And, despite all the criticism, the whiffs of scandal, the lack of support for an embattled Chief from the rank and file, senior officers facing criminal complaints and in at least one case, a criminal prosecution for fraud, the Police Commission has offered to negotiate a new contract for Beaton leaving him in the position until 2008.

The chairwoman of the Police commission, Sandy Durrant, herself no stranger to controversy, said after the announcement in a media interview, “The commission is pleased with the leadership Chief Beaton has shown over the past four years, including excellent management of major events.” Perhaps so, but it is in the management of the day to day events that so many of the line officers have lost confidence in their chief and, precisely why the Commission should listen to those who must work in the mean streets.

The website, Standfirm.biz systematically argues that the Calgary Police Service is, at the very least, hypocritical in the way it doesn’t practice what it preaches. In a section titled “Core values,” the website’s author(s) lists the statement from the manual for the police in Calgary: “All members of the Calgary Police Service are expected to adhere to the core values of the service, conducting themselves at all times with honesty, integrity, ethics, respect, fairness and compassion, courage and commitment.”

It then provides examples for each category in which the Police Service or, more specifically, senior management, appears to do anything but follow those “core values.”

Beaton, for his part, has reacted angrily about the website. He sent around a memo via the department’s email to all members indicating the witch hunt was about to begin. In the memo he said, “Clearly the authors have no regard whatsoever for our members who wear the uniform with pride.”

According to the website the converse is true. It is the senior management who lack the respect for the cop on the beat.

The website has also got the attention of the local media. On Saturday, the Calgary Herald ran a story headlined: “Police chief furious over web attack.”

Typically, Beaton lashed out at the messenger and ignored the message.

“I have assured our members that on their behalf, the service intends to take every measure necessary to discover who is responsible and hold them fully accountable for their actions,” Beaton was quoted saying to the Herald on Friday.

No big surprise there I suppose. It is a tried and true method in dealing with whistleblowers. No doubt if and/or when Beaton discovers who is behind the site he will follow the next step in the How to Deal with Whistleblowers Handbook; Trash them. Wait for it, it will happen.

But what is really remarkable in all of this is the public nature in which the battle is being waged. I have seen other cases where a police department’s members have lobbied to have a disliked chief removed. The saga of Bruce Chambers’ tumultuous years as the Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department comes to mind.

But in those instances the battle is typically waged within the walls of the department. Occasionally glimpses will be given, usually by a carefully leaked piece of information to a member of the press. But I have never seen anything like this.

The author(s) of the site have so far been very careful to mask their identity and have taken pains to have the reader believe there are a number of serving police officers behind the site. In email correspondence, the only way they will communicate at this point, they refer to themselves as: “The Team at Standfirm.biz.”

In the Herald  story, reporter Suzanne Wilton quotes an email received from Standfirm saying, “Simply put, we will all lose our jobs” as the reason for going to great lengths to shield their identity. Clearly they believe in the vindictive nature of senior management.

In his book, Leadership former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani devotes a whole chapter to the subject of loyalty entitled, Loyalty: The Vital Virtue.

In Giuliani’s view that is the single thing any good leader must have from his or her subordinates, loyalty. Without it, the organization founders and the administration stagnates.

In Beaton’s case, he has lost the loyalty of at least 70 per cent of the serving men and women of the Calgary Police Service. At least some of those people have taken the drastic step of putting up a web site that literally airs the dirty laundry in public and in doing so they risk their very careers.

As Beaton negotiates another three years on his estimated $150,000 job, all he can promise publicly is he will seek revenge on the officers behind the web site.

Hard to imagine how that will inspire loyalty in the rest of the department. Fear perhaps, but it seems that that particular emotion is already present.

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