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City still waiting for province's police board candidate: Katz

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Mayor Sam Katz said the city is still waiting to find out who the province plans to appoint to the Winnipeg Police Board.

Last week, the city announced the names of appointees who will oversee the Winnipeg Police Service on the new police board, including protection and community services chairman Coun. Scott Fielding, lawyer Paul Edwards, Glen Karr, Mary Jane Loustel, Leslie Spillet and Elmwood Coun. Thomas Steen.

One provincial appointee, Louise Simbandumwe, raised concerns it is a conflict-of-interest for the Winnipeg Police Service to do background checks on citizens who will oversee the police force. She suggested an outside body such as the RCMP should do it, not the police force she is being appointed to oversee.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan wrote to the head of the Manitoba Police Commission for insight on the matter.

"We believe these concerns have merit and I write to you to seek your views on whether you share these concerns about the potential for conflict-of-interest and whether you’ve heard similar complaints raised by other board members or applicants," Swan said in a letter dated March 7.

A spokeswoman said Swan is still waiting to hear back from commission chairman Rick Linden.

Katz said he is not concerned about the Winnipeg Police Service conducting the background checks on appointees, saying it’s pretty standard across the country. He said the city told the province they would have to come up with another candidate if their appointee did not agree to the security check.

Katz said the province agreed to put forward another name, and he’s surprised by some of Swan’s comments.

"They said they would provide another candidate and we’re just waiting for that," Katz said Wednesday.

Next week, city council will vote to approve appointees nominated by the city, including Edwards, Karr, Loustel, Fielding and Steen.

Provincial appointees do not have to be approved by city council.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) said she’s concerned by Edwards’ appointment as vice-chair of the police board since he previously worked on the mayor’s election team.

Edwards, a lawyer and former Manitoba Liberal Party leader, co-chaired Katz’s re-election team in 2010.

"The essential point of a police board is to have policing policy decisions de-politicized," Gerbasi said in an email. "This appointment creates at the very least, the optics and perception of a politicized police board."

Gerbasi said the other appointees proposed by executive policy committee come from business backgrounds, as opposed to a more diverse representation.

Katz said Edwards is very capable and very knowledgable and the city looked for a broad spectrum of people from different backgrounds.

"If you checked I’m not sure you could find someone with better credentials," he said.


Updated on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 10:04 AM CDT: updates

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