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Little 'significant' in WPS operations review, councillors say

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A controversial independent review of Winnipeg Police Service operations didn't deliver what some expected and what others feared – major cuts and changes to the city police force.

The 345-page report contains 175 recommendations, but Winnipeg city councillors panned the document this morning and Police Chief Devon Clunis said he was already making some of the changes identified in the report.

"We will not jeopardize public safety," said Coun. Scott Fielding, chair of the fledgling Winnipeg Police board, which will be responsible for deciding which of the recommendations will be implemented.

Among the report’s recommendations:

- there is a lack of accountability within the WPS management team in the oversight of day-to-day operations;

- lack of performance data hinders managers ability to monitor operations;

- the WPS has excellent response times but the service is too reactive, not proactive enough.

Clunis and Fielding said buried within the report are recommendations for cuts or changes to the WPS, but both said each recommendation would be reviewed to determine its appropriateness for the community.

Other changes included:

- disband the WPS mounted (horse) unit that rides during summer months;

- fold the arson unit into major crimes;

- eliminate the airport unit;

- create more one-officer police cars;

- transferring more work from officers to lower-paid civilians;

- transition IT and HR services to civic administration.

Councillors were briefed on the review at a closed-door meeting at 9 a.m. and the document was released publicly at 11 a.m.

"There’s nothing significant in this report that leaves me concerned, one way or the other," Coun. Harvey Smith (McIntyre) said. "It was a waste of time for me even being here."

Mayor Sam Katz said many of the recommendations could generate dollar savings but they would need to be negotiated in collective bargaining.

 The review is not a blueprint for cost-cutting at the WPS, Katz said.

"In order to get some of the (financial savings) you’re looking for, there has to be dialogue and negotiations because they come under the collective bargaining agreement."

Katz said the stated goal of the review was to find ways to make the WPS more efficient and any cost-savings would be a bonus.

"This was considered to be a menu of times," Katz said. "Now they’ll go through them."

Katz said there is no support on council to eliminate the mounted unit, adding its benefit to the city and the WPS goes beyond its financial cost.

Katz said nothing in the review could be seen to jeopardize officer or public safety.

"In general they made recommendations how we can be pro-active and make the city a safer place," Katz said.

Spokespersons for the police union -- the Winnipeg Police Association -- could not be reached for comment this morning.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 9:59 AM CDT: Blog box added.

10:57 AM: Adds live video feed.

12:43 PM: Updates story following press conference.

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