Case Study: New Girl on the Block
Written by Yvonne and Brad Latta and Andrew Graham
Overview: This is the case of a new supervisor, younger, focused on a new agenda,
taking over a new unit that arose in a police service. The woman appointed as Inspector
is young and change oriented. Her assigned staff offer a range of supportive and not so
supportive skills. Missions shift. Priorities and skills needed shift. The game is different.
How to manage this?
This case is useful in examining a range of management issues: leadership, change
management, managing challenging employees, getting employee engagement,
managing expectations of colleagues and superiors.
The New “Girl”
Carmella Ostetto has recently been promoted to Inspector within the Belton Regional Police
Services, one of the largest and fastest-growing police forces in Canada, immediately adjacent to
Boomtown, one of Canada’s largest cities.
Carmella’s rise through the force has been almost meteoric. Her time “on the beat” was short,
only two years. Most of her experience was gained at divisional headquarters, first as a
constable, then sergeant in the Communications Branch, staff sergeant in Corporate Services
and, most recently, at headquarters as a special assistant to the Deputy Chief, Operations. She
was the first female officer to assume this last role and her appointment, after a relatively short
career, raised eyebrows and a few snickers from some members of the force.
In the end, Carmella proved that she was a good choice. The Deputy and other senior officers
were very impressed, particularly with her ability to grasp concepts quickly, to handle delicate
political situations with ease and to get results.
Now, at only 33 years of age, she finds herself head of the newly created Police-Community
Integration Unit, with a mandate to establish closer working links between the police and
Belton’s rapidly growing immigrant community. In particular, the deputy expects the unit to
bring police operations and immigrant communities closer together, not just to make the various
communities feel better but to actually provide better policing, especially to deal with youth
gangs forming along ethnic lines.
Carmella is excited by this opportunity to prove herself as the head of a unit but recognizes that
she is facing formidable challenges – from within the unit, from distrustful immigrant
Yvonne and Brad Latta manage Latta Consulting Ltd, focusing on personnel management,
facilitation, training and executive counseling and planning. Andrew Graham is an Adjunct
Professor, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, focusing on management, financial
management and a range of public safety skill needs.
communities and from the Police Service in general. She knows there are some who would like
to see her fail miserably. There always have been.
The Unit: A Mixed Bag
After only one week on the job Carmella has a good handle on what she is facing.
Her unit consists of 6 members plus herself. Her staff sergeant, Gary Holsworth, was second in
command at the old Police Liaison Unit and brings to the table 22 years of experience and lots of
contacts in the community. He also brings some very strong opinions on what’s wrong out there
and doesn’t hesitate to voice them. In particular, he slams Canada’s immigration policy at every
opportunity and openly questions the motives of some of Belton’s immigrant community leaders.
He often speaks fondly of he “good old days” when you could just go down and talk to a couple
of well placed “Eyetalians” or Greek guys and they would take care of the street problems
themselves. “Can’t do that with these Tamils and Jamaicans,” she heard him say to a colleague.
Within these older ethnic communities,Gary is well liked. He attends quite a number of their
larger social functions and knows how to work a crowd. Of course, that crowd is increasingly
either running businesses, on local and regional government councils or leading lights in law,
medicine and banking.
In referring to the new communities, Gary’s comments sometimes come far too close to racial
slurs for Carmella’s liking. She has had to struggle with what the tolerance bar for language and
stereotyping is within the Service. Her own friends outside the Service would never put up with
what she hears on a daily basis. On the other hand, she knows that people like Gary have done a
world of good with the more established communities.
Gary, while he is putting on a good front, clearly sees this unit as a personal slight. He does not
see why the old Unit had to be disbanded and certainly cannot fathom why someone so
inexperienced as Carmella got the job . He bears her no bad will, but his good will is pretty thin.
As far he’s concerned things were going just fine. He sees the new unit as further evidence of the
Deputy’s desire to create the appearance that he, the Deputy, is making huge changes. In Gary’s
opinion, the Deputy is making a lot of changes to set himself up for a chief’s job somewhere.
Gary sees the future much as he did the past. He would like to continue meeting with the same
old organizations, preparing lengthy reports that include his take on the “problems” and
submitting these reports electronically to the divisions. He’s careful not to step on the toes of
operational commanders. Gary is not stupid, and he is well connected. He knows that the Service
has to face up to what’s going, but he also feels that just means more of what has been successful
in the past. He sees a real risk in “sucking up to the new groups and ignoring our established
Carmella doesn’t see the unit’s role this way at all. Nor does the Deputy. His expectation, and
hers, is that the unit will establish new links within the various communities and invite
community leaders to participate in joint projects. Ultimately, the goal is to better protect
immigrant communities, actively discourage gang membership and gang activity, and to improve
the image of the police within these communities. They are both committed to setting up more
formal structures than the Service used in the past. They see Gary’s approach as fine as long as
Gary is around. As well, they see it as a ‘good old boy’ approach that ignores the immigrant
organizations and sure ignores women and kids.
As she has explained to Gary numerous times, the Unit’s role is not solely to provide intelligence
information to the divisions but to work closely with operational people to help build better
communities. Gary pretends to listen attentively but firmly believes it’s all bullshit. He’s heard it
before. He knows that divisions don’t want any interference and that Carmella’s grand schemes
will ultimately fail. He’s quite prepared to make only a token effort until that happens. But Gary
knows that she does not know how to go toe-to-toe with her ‘equals’, i.e. Inspectors responsible
for operational units. Little does he know that Carmella is on to him.
But elsewhere in the unit there’s hope. Constable Justin Green, a young African-Canadian, is
clearly excited about the prospects of his new assignment. Justin grew up in one of the tougher
areas of the Region and understands the challenges for the immigrant population and for the
police. Carmella thinks he will be a valuable resource but recognizes that he is sometimes prone
to take action before getting all the facts. She looks forward to mentoring Justin.
Constable Martine Zednick, transferred in from Domestic Violence, also impresses Carmella,
particularly with her no-nonsense common sense approach to what others might mistakenly see
as complex problems. Martine is a veteran police officer and single mother of three children, all
of whom are now enrolled in college or university education. Martine doesn’t mince her words
but rarely offends; people tend to like and admire her. Carmella has noted that Martine can talk
to anyone, from unruly kids on a corner to senior officers. Not only is Martine thrilled to be
finally off shift work but she clearly wants to prove that she is up to the challenge of her new job.
Carmella has already noted that Martine is weak when it comes to writing detailed reports and
will need help in this area. She expects Martine to grow into the position rapidly.
Of the remaining three members of the Unit there are no apparent standouts nor any liabilities.
Except perhaps for Jake. He’s the youngest member of the team, but brings with him a degree in
sociology and strong technological skills. But his street experience is limited and Carmella is
wondering why he was picked. Granted she herself was young in every important position she
ever had, but she was exceptional, and she hasn’t yet seen anything exceptional in Jake. One of
her colleagues once quipped snidely that Jake’s uncle appeared to be taking good care of him.
But the colleague didn’t elaborate, and Carmella didn’t ask.
While Jake appears to be capable, she has noted two potential problem areas: First, Jake’s style
of dress would suggest that he thinks he is working undercover rather than representing the
Police Service in the immigrant community. Second, Jake is loose with his hours of work, often
coming in late and returning late from trips outside the office. On one occasion when Jake
arrived late for a meeting, she commented “Nice of you to join us”, clearly displeased. Jake
shrugged, said nothing to anyone, plunked down in a chair and started to text message as soon as
the meeting resumed. Carmella was not impressed and made a mental note to keep an eye on
Fortunately, the other members of the unit are rock solid. Ivan is a dependable, quiet officer
close to his pension but clearly not coasting. And Christine is a very responsible and competent,
albeit rough around the edges, admin person. Carmella thinks that she can count on both of them
and that they will respond positively to her leadership.
But it’s whether they or the others will respond positively to Gary’s leadership that worries her.
Reality Sets In
After only a few weeks, Carmella is beginning to feel a little frustrated. Although she thought
that she had clearly articulated her vision of the Unit’s role, Gary continues to send her a
seemingly endless barrage of dissertations that read like CSIS risk assessments. They are long on
detail but short on analysis and conclusions that she can work with. Gary is clearly proud of
What Carmella has repeatedly told Gary is that she wants to see team members out in the
community getting a feel for what’s needed and explaining the general goals of the new unit to
anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, from Carmella’s perspective it appears that these forays
haven’t gone much further than formal introductions to Gary’s traditional community contacts.
As her staff settle into this routine, Carmella is beginning to detect that their enthusiasm for the
job is eroding.
Carmella partly blames herself. She had expected Gary to get the ball rolling in the community
while she approached senior officers at headquarters and in the divisions to explain the role of
the Unit and to assure them that the Unit sought to assist them, not impede them, in their routine
policing duties. This job turned out to be more time consuming than she had expected as there
seemed to be widespread misconceptions about the role of the Unit. From the beginning it
appeared that she was facing a ‘turf war’ but she quickly used her considerable skills to smooth
In addition, she had to set up all the standard procedures for the unit – i.e. overtime reporting,
leave and attendance, financial reporting – all the corporate requirements of any modern
operation. She was very comfortable at these tasks and knew that no one else in the unit could
get administration set up as effectively and efficiently as she could.
At their meeting earlier this week, the Deputy had made it clear to her that he he had hoped to
receive an operational plan from the Unit outlining priorities for the immediate future. As for the
reports he had been receiving, the Deputy stated that he was not much interested in risk
assessments or environmental scans. “This is the sort of thing I am used to seeing and often don’t
read,” he said. “They are long-winded, short on action and definitely nothing new. Where’s the
change here?, he asked.
The Deputy was ambitious and politically astute enough to know that he had no chance of ever
becoming Chief if he did not handle this file well. With this in mind he reminded Carmella that
he had gone out on a limb in both setting up the Unit and appointing her to lead it. He reassured
her that he didn’t expect overnight success but he did want to be able to demonstrate to the Chief
as soon as possible that some progress was being made. And to impress upon her the importance
of success he added: “You know how important this is for the Chief. He wants to reach out and
be known as the Chief of the new Beeton, not the old one. The new Mayor is putting the pressure
on. We have to perform here.”
Carmella assured the Deputy that her team was working on a short-term operational plan that she
would present by the end of the month. She expressed concern that she was finding it
increasingly difficult to get the attention of some of her colleagues in the divisions. After the
initial flurry, it appeared that they just didn’t seem to have much time for her or interest in what
the Unit was trying to achieve. The Deputy assured her that he would take care of that when he
felt he something viable to work with..
The Week from Hell
Carmella began to outline her plan but before she could meet with her other team members, all
hell broke loose for the next five days. On the first night a 13-year-old black girl was sexually
attacked by a group of three to five young males outside a community centre. She was in hospital
in serious condition. None of the suspects had been apprehended. On day two, members of one
gang fired shots at at least three members of another near the same centre, in full view of at least
20 people. One shooter was wounded, hospitalized and then taken into custody but the rest
disappeared. No one was talking. There were rumours that the shootings were linked to the
sexual assault. On day three, a Skri Lankan couple, proprietors of a convenience store, were
robbed at knife point and the husband stabbed by two unknown masked assailants. On day four,
a group of prominent Skri Lankans met with the mayor and the Chief to discuss why their
community wasn’t receiving the same level of policing as other communities. Later that same
day a small group of angry Jamaican-Canadians demonstrated in front of police headquarters
protesting the lack of results in the sexual assault investigation.
And on day five, it got even worse. The same convenience store that was previously robbed was
robbed again. Fortunately, no one was hurt this time but Mrs. Samaraweera demanded to know
on the front page of the Belton Bugle what the police were doing to protect hardworking people
like her and her husband from “these animals”. “We did not come to Canada to be robbed and
stabbed,” she cried. The Skri Lankan Benevolent Association complained that police had done
very little to investigate these incidents. They demanded a formal inquiry. When the Chief said
he wanted to meet with the Association, he was shocked to learn that no one had ever met with
the President before. Nor did anyone know anything about him or his organization. This meant
the Chief was walking into a completely unknown situation.
Throughout it all Gary worked unauthorized overtime writing a comprehensive report entitled
Our Deteriorating Ethnic Communities, which upon completion he sent to all divisional heads
without Carmella’s clearance. Carmella spent much of her time meeting with operational officers
and the Deputy. In addition, she had to contend with a barrage of calls from the media. The
Division had clued into the fact that they could avoid some embarrassing questions and
considerable work by referring media enquiries to the Services’ newly formed “Immigrant Anti-
Crime Unit”. Carmella cringed when she heard this term used to describe her unit. When
Carmella finally had time to read Gary’s report, a day after he had sent it to the the divisions, she
was appalled at the stereotypical references to various races.
Justin Green and Martine Zednick met with community leaders and attended community
meetings to assure participants that the police were doing all that they could. Ivan held down the
fort and Jake ran here there and everywhere looking like either Starsky or Hutch. Carmella
wasn’t quite sure which or what exactly he was doing.
She found out in startling fashion when the Inspector in charge of the Armed Robbery Unit
charged into her office demanding to know why one of her “motley boys” was screwing up his
investigation of the convenience store robberies by questioning witnesses. “Ahh...that would
have to be Jake”, she responded. “I’ll deal with him,” she assured the Inspector.
Fortunately, the worst was soon over. The very next day, police arrested two robbery suspects,
and issued warrants for two gang members believed to have been involved in the sexual assault.
Things began to settle down more or less and Carmella had time to really work on her action
As she began, she realized that her thoughts kept drifting to the Unit and what’s it’s members
were doing at that precise moment. Therein lay her first problem, she concluded. While she had
seen herself as the strategic and operational leader of the Unit, she had always expected that
Gary would take care of day-to-day managing of the team and its activities. Now she realized
that she had a serious problem – she didn’t trust Gary to do this. And it desperately needed to be
done. Sitting back she listed the serious internal challenges that had emerged over the past two
• The morale and confidence of the unit’s members was down. Justin Green, in particular,
seemed to have lost much of his initial enthusiasm.
• Gary seemed to be contributing to low morale by frequently sharing his opinion within
the unit that new immigrant groups were far more difficult to deal with than the
traditional ones. On one occasion Carmella heard him name certain leaders who he felt
could not be trusted.
• Jake was increasingly operating as a free agent and resented having to account for his
time in the field. His response to her chastisement for interfering in an active
investigation was not encouraging.
• As a whole, the unit did not seem to be making links to the ethnic communities at the rate
that Carmella expected.
There were serious external problems as well. Taking out a clean sheet of paper, she listed them.
• A serious rift had developed between the unit and the Inspector in charge of the Armed
Robbery Unit. He had gone to the Deputy to voice his concerns. Overall, divisional staff
appeared to have less and less respect for her unit and support for its mandate.
• A coalition of immigrant groups was emerging and becoming more and more vocal in
their criticism of police service in their communities. Several of them had appeared on
talk radio. She knew that town hall meetings in the communities were soon to follow and
that she would be among those on the hot seat.
Against this backdrop, Carmella knew that her first priority had to be to get an excellent
operational plan into the Deputy as soon as possible. But at the same time she realized that she
couldn’t just leave the rest to Gary. But where should she start?, she wondered. This much she
knew – she desperately needed to get her act together in a hurry.