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Clunis plans to increase community engagement to prevent crime

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The new chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, Devon Clunis, wants to increase crime prevention through an expansion of the Community Relations Unit (CRU).

Clunis addressed about 300 people at a Manitoba Criminal Justice Association breakfast this morning.

Clunis, who took the high-profile role of leading the police service this past fall, said he wants police to focus on "crime prevention through social development."

He said he wants to make a "concerted effort in making a meaningful difference" in the aboriginal and newcomer communities.

"If you look at the newcomer population, for example, there's a huge disconnect in terms of the relationship with police.

Many of these individuals are coming from areas in the world where relationship with police are non-existent," said Clunis, speaking to reporters after the breakfast.

He also said: "I really believe the prevention work needs that proactive oversight, that’s what community relations all about."

A Staff-Sgt. has already been assigned to look at CRU to assess what its changing needs are.

Clunis told the breakfast crowd - who included defence lawyers, police brass, provincial Justice Minister Andrew Swan, and defence lawyer and MCJA president Mike Cook – that he wants Winnipeg to be known as the "safest city" in Canada, not the nation’s crime capital.

"Something that we need to realize in our city, the demographics of the city of Winnipeg are changing and whether we realize it right now or not, the economic viability, the future success of our city, rests on the success of every segment of the population," said Clunis.

"We are one of the most diverse cities, I would say, in the entire planet. And with that diversity comes that potential to be a truly great city, but only if every demographic has the opportunity to be successful. We need to understand that one model of policing right across the board will not fit every community and we need to take new initiatives in terms of reaching into these communities."

Clunis assumed the role of Chief in October, after former Chief Keith McCaskill retired after one five-year term at the top. During McCaskill’s term, some community initiatives were rolled out, like a sweep in November 2011 called Project Return, where officers worked with social service workers to cut down on sexual exploitation of youth.

Clunis said he’d look specifically at adding diversity officers to the CRU to work with different communities. Right now, there are three officers who work in this area.

Clunis, a veteran member of the WPS who has earned credibility internally for his role as chaplain, was the subject of controversy this fall after he made comments about prayer and faith to Christian Week. He told the audience Thursday morning about growing up in Jamaica and moving to Canada, and how he became a police officer because he wanted to be a role model.

"I think you need to set high goals for yourself," said Clunis, to a reporter after the speech.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 12:13 PM CST: Writethru

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