Calgary police officer files grievance after not winning long-sought position

Up to employer to establish appraisal process: arbitrator

Calgary police officer files grievance after not winning long-sought position

A long-time member of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) was disappointed when he wasn’t awarded a position in the air support unit.

Kelly Oberg joined the service in 2002 after serving time with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). He began as a constable but in 2008, Oberg worked as a tactical flight officer on a part-time basis, after successfully completing an eight- to 10-week training course (Oberg also served as acting sergeant at the violent crimes suppression unit).

Oberg’s experience with the Forces provided him with valuable experience with helicopters. But after an injury made his work with the gang unit untenable, Oberg worked full-time with the air support unit. He was promoted to sergeant in summer 2010.

Between 2010 and 2017, Oberg split his time 50-50 between the air support unit and one of the city’s district as a street-level sergeant. Oberg trained other officers in the air support unit, developed a new training program and helped select new tactical flight officers.

On April 25, 2018, the position of full-time sergeant with the air support unit was posted.

It was his lifelong dream to work full-time in that unit, he testified, so Oberg applied a few days before the May 16 cutoff date.

The position was responsible for the general daily oversight of the unit.

Oberg was notified that he was one of four applicants who were short-listed for the position and he attended an interview. Later that day, Oberg was told that he wasn’t the successful candidate.

Oberg spoke with a sergeant to discuss why he wasn’t chosen but the meeting degenerated into an argument.

On Aug. 8, the Calgary Police Association (CPA) filed a grievance and argued the process was unfair. As well, the successful candidate was hand-picked, argued the CPA, which circumvented Oberg’s candidacy.

Oberg finished second with a mark of 90.4 per cent, while the winning employee scored 93.2 per cent in the final rankings.

Arbitrator James Casey dismissed the grievance.

“Despite not having any restrictions in the collective agreement for lateral position competitions, the Calgary Police Service used its established selection process which was fair, transparent and consistently applied to all candidates. The selection process resulted in the successful candidate being ranked by the thinnest of margins ahead of Oberg. There is no evidence of arbitrariness, discrimination, favouritism, bias, or bad faith. The decision was reasonable.”

Oberg’s argument that his past experience wasn’t given enough weight was rejected by the arbitrator.

“I agree with Oberg that a reasonable argument can be made that increasing the weight given to directly relevant experience and education/training may have strengthened the process in this particular process given that Oberg was seeking a lateral position in a unit in which he had considerable experience. However, it is up to CPS to establish the process to be used and the weighting of the various factors used in the selection system. It is not for the arbitrator to ‘conduct a micro-examination of every feature of the selection process’ or ‘dissect the process too finely’ or engage in too much ‘Monday morning quarterbacking,’” said Casey.

As well, Oberg found fault with the amount of space he was provided in the cover letter portion of the application.

“Reviewing the information provided in Oberg’s application package, it is clear that both he and his supervisor were able to provide fulsome and extensive information in support of Oberg’s application. I don’t find anything unreasonable about the space restrictions especially in the context of the extensive, multi-faceted information considered in the selection process,” said Casey.

Reference: The Corporation of the City of Calgary and the Calgary Police Association. James Casey — arbitrator. Rebecca Anderson, Vanessa Porozni for the employer. Patrick Nugent for the employee. July 29, 2019.

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