'Winnipeg is frustrated. We all want for more from the police and more of a say in the policing they do.' – Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Winnipeg boasts some of the highest police spending per capita of any major Canadian city, with the 2021 Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) Budget exceeding $310 million and accounting for over 26% of the City of Winnipeg’s total budget.(1)
However, ever-increasing WPS funding has had little impact on the crime Winnipeggers face day to day. Violent crime, property crime; all crimes are up year over year and have begun to top 5-year averages.(2)
Winnipeg is frustrated. We all want for more from the police and more of a say in the policing they do.
As is the case with the patience of Winnipeggers, police find themselves stretched thin, reacting to an increasing number of 911 calls. The police are treated like a Swiss army knife for the city’s problems, expected to respond to calls they are not suited for; calls better suited to health, social service, and community organizations.
What the City is doing isn’t working and throwing more money at the WPS isn’t the answer. If we want to build the city we want, we need to re-define our relationship with the WPS and re-think how we do crime prevention and crime solving.
As Mayor, I will work with council to bring a more community-focused approach to safety that includes the efforts of the WPS and front-line community organizations, enhanced training for officers and a full review of the Winnipeg Police Board (WPB).
Community Safety & Innovation Fund
‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The goal is to take a load off of the WPS so they can focus on what they do best.’ – Robert-Falcon Ouellette
As Mayor, I will work with council to create a Community Safety and Innovation Fund (CSIF) and freeze the police budget at its current level, $310 million, for four years.(3)
The CSIF would be open to applications by community organizations and the WPS to provide funding for proactive programs that would help reduce crime.
Financing for the CSIF would come from what would have been annual budgeted increases for the WPS. Over a four-year period, this would make more than $21 million available for community-based safety initiatives.(4)
A City Council committee would establish priorities and measurable outcomes to evaluate different proposals from community groups and the WPS. A community group may partner with the WPS, which would result in a true community partnership.
The WPS and City have to be more innovative in its crime prevention and crime solving measures. We want to see a significant reduction in the crime rate and an improvement in the WPS’ ability to solve crimes given its existing budget.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, The goal is to take a load off of the WPS so they can focus on what they do best.
Enhanced Community Training & National Standards
‘Training and policing should incorporate the history of our city. History that includes the good, the bad and the ugly of our relationship with the police’. – Robert-Falcon Ouellette
We also need to enhance the training of the WPS, taking a lead from former Winnipeg Police Chief, David Cassels, who is advocating for a reform of police training standards.
Police training, Cassels said, shouldn't be like it is today, with its sharp focus on paramilitary format, rules, and physical and firearms skills, which he calls a "boot-camp type of training. A standard, modernized curriculum also needs to incorporate teachings on racism, bias and the impact of colonization on Indigenous Peoples. Most police officers never learn any of that and if they haven't learned it in school, they really know very little about it, [as well as], understanding and dealing with people with health problems and marginalized groups.” (5)
Training and policing should incorporate the history of our city. History that includes the good, the bad and the ugly of our City’s relationship ’with the police.
Cassels has also argued that the federal government should put in place national standards for training, something I believe we should support.
Winnipeg Police Board Review
‘We can’t forget that the police board was created because of our community’s desire for improved policing and a say in how that policing is done.’ – Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Finally, as Mayor I would work with council to conduct a full community-based review of the Winnipeg Police Board (WPB) and its governance of the WPS.(6)
The role of the WPB is to provide civilian governance and oversight of the WPS. However, at issue is the turnover of board members, which includes city councillors and community members, who are quietly leaving or quitting because they do not feel heard.
We can’t forget that the police board was created because of our community’s desire for improved policing and a say in how that policing is done.
The last major change to the WPB happened 10 years ago, and the WPB needs to be updated to reflect what we’ve learned. The role of the board needs to be strengthened so that board members feel they have the opportunity to provide true governance and oversight of the activities and policy direction of the police.
A community-based review of the WPB by City Council would engage all stakeholders and develop new guidelines and provide suggested changes to existing provincial legislation and city by-laws.
Some of the changes we are proposing would require the Mayor and Council to work with the Province to amend legislation, in particular The Police Services Act.
Again, we find ourselves banging up against the rules and jurisdiction of the Province. But to build the city we want, a city that is safe, thriving and livable we need to change the rules.
Thank you, Merci, Tapwe akwa khitwam.
(1) City Budget 2022 (PAGE 243) https://winnipeg.ca/finance/files/2022AdoptedOperatingCapitalBudget.pdf
(3) Increases outlined under collective bargaining agreements would continue to be met.
(4) Based on annual increases to the WPS budget from 2017 to 2022.
(6) The Winnipeg Police Board is governed by the Police Services Act (2009) and City of Winnipeg by-law 148/2012 (Winnipeg Police Board By-law) (2012) legislation.