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Female officer’s lawyer disputes workplace harassment report

Troy Shantz The Sarnia Police Service has failed to comply with a government return-to-work safety plan ordered for a female officer after she alleged assault and harassment by a male officer, her lawyer says.
Sarnia Police headquarters

Troy Shantz

The Sarnia Police Service has failed to comply with a government return-to-work safety plan ordered for a female officer after she alleged assault and harassment by a male officer, her lawyer says.

Lawyer Gary Bennett said Staff Sergeant Jaime McCabe-Wyville remains off work and without pay, yet police have taken no steps to return her to work as ordered last October.

“The Sarnia Police are in violation of the Ministry of Labour order,” Bennett said.

Sarnia Police hired Toronto lawyer Helen Daniel to investigate McCabe-Wyville’s claims of assault and harassment, and on Tuesday released a summary of the findings.

Staff Sergeant Jaime McCabe-Wyville

Daniel found that McCabe-Wyville was not harassed, subjected to violence or discriminated against, and that her claims are unsubstantiated, according to police.

But the report also found the Christina Street headquarters has become a “toxic” workplace and provided a series of recommendations to address the problem, police said.

Bennett said his client’s claim was substantiated. He points to a criminal harassment investigation conducted by Windsor Police Service last year, after McCabe-Wyville said the male officer assaulted her in the Sarnia Police gym.

A report by the Windsor Police investigator states: “I am of the opinion that Reasonable Grounds have been satisfied to believe (the male officer) committed the offences of Assault and Criminal Harassment.”

However, after consulting with the Crown, the investigator did not recommend criminal charges.

Despite “the threshold of reasonable grounds being met … it is evident that a criminal prosecution holds no prospects of conviction,” he wrote in a redacted copy of the May 14, 2020 report obtained by The Journal.

“The Windsor Police made a finding of fact that the assault took place and that it took place in the workplace at the Sarnia Police Station,” Bennett said.

At a news conference Wednesday, Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen said the service is working on a return-to-work plan for McCabe-Wyville, based on the findings of the Daniel report.

When asked about the discrepancy between the Windsor Police and Daniel reports, Hansen reiterated that the Windsor-Essex Crown Attorney concluded no charges should be laid against the male officer.

Chief Hansen said police do not plan to make the full Daniel report public, but said a summary would be provided to any employee involved in the investigation.

He also said Daniel’s recommendations will help police address and curb harmful gossip and other workplace challenges.

Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen

Chief Hansen also sent a letter sent to McCabe-Wyville on Tuesday. In it, he acknowledged the male officer “ought to have recused himself” from a promotional panel when she applied for a Staff Sergeant position, because their personal relationship had created a conflict of interest.

“Given the results of the investigation, we continue to remain available to discuss your return to work at the earliest possible date,” the Chief told her.

The Daniel report makes a number of recommendations to improve the workplace culture at police headquarters. They include:

* Develop a communication plan to reduce gossip in the workplace.

* Sensitivity training for all employees on harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence.

* Management training for working in a unionized environment, including engaging in difficult conversations and conflict management.

* A review of the level of human resource support available to management.

* That the Police Association and senior administration consider creating a separate bargaining unit for Sergeants, Staff Sergeants and Inspectors.

* Review the promotional process, including issues of perceived and real conflict of interest on promotional panels.

* And that diversity initiatives, including the recruitment of women, continue to be a priority.

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