Police union officials say front line officers in Winnipeg know they aren’t meeting national standards for response times to critical calls in some areas of the city.
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, and Mike Sutherland, Winnipeg Police Association president, said a review of all 911 calls in 2012 found police response times fall far short of the national standard of 7 minutes for critical complaints from the downtown area:
- Child safety – 51 minutes.
- Assault with a weapon – 77 minutes.
- Shots fired – 26 minutes.
- Stabbing reported – 53 minutes.
"Those are serious calls," Stamatakis said. "I don’t believe by any standard that’s satisfactory."
Earlier this morning, Police Chief Devon Clunis disputed the findings of the union-initiated review on the slow response times, first reported in today’s Free Press.
Clunis said this morning police respond immediately to all life-threatening situations, regardless of the caller.
"If there is a threat to someone, we’re there," Clunis said. "That’s a high priority call."
A review initiated by the national police union found Winnipeg police officers take on average 77 minutes to respond to calls involving domestic assault and assaults with a weapon.
Canadian Police Association president Tom Stamatakis said the findings were shocking and Winnipeg is alone among Canadian police forces to treat such calls in that fashion.
Clunis insisted that the union review is flawed, but he did confirm that domestic assault calls to 911 are automatically recognized at a lower priority – but raised if the situation warrants it.
"If there’s no threat, if there’s been an assault but the abuser is gone, we evaluate all that," Clunis said. "Domestics for us are a high-priority call and we make sure we get to them in a very timely manner."
Sutherland said the review found officers are not being deployed properly to the areas where they are needed most, adding that the downtown and North End are understaffed.
"Child safety, assault with a weapon, shots fired, stabbing reported... in any other Canadian city (these) are considered a safety issue," Sutherland said, a former Det. Sergeant in the homicide unit, said.
Stamatakis and Sutherland presented the review to the Winnipeg police board this morning.
Police board chairman Scott Fielding said the union review will be publicly available before the board’s December meeting.
Stamatakis was critical of another review, done by American firm Matrix Consulting, explaining it missed the key finding of the inadequate response times.
But the union review echoes some of the recommendations of the discredited Matrix report: Officers need to be redeployed where needed most; Winnipeg police has almost little analytical capacity; more civilians to do some of the work now done by officers.
"The results of this operational review indicate that there are numerous areas where the WPS can increase its effectiveness and efficiency," states the introduction of the operational review, conducted by a research team from Simon Fraser university, and a portion of which was obtained by the Free Press.
"This will see a benefit from a greater streamlining of activities, leading to saving in overtime and staffing costs."
The 500-page report, which cost about $180,000, was commissioned and paid for by the Canadian Police Association.
Stamatakis said the list of recommendations is essentially cost-neutral: if fully implemented, the increase in the WPS budget would be $500,000, according to the document.
The review calls for the reduction of 30 officer positions, and an increase of 85 civilian employees. Salary costs would increase $2 million, the review states, but this would be offset by reducing overtime at a savings of $1.5 million.
The review focused on the use of overtime, the potential for civilianization, staffing, deployment, response calls, and activities of the investigative units.
The Simon Fraser team had complete access to the Winnipeg Police Service and conducted repeated in-person interviews with several community and stakeholder groups to determine their expectations of the WPS and whether the WPS was meeting those expectations.
The review identified policing issues relating to marginalized aboriginal and newcomer communities and high youth crime rates, and examined crime and enforcement statistics.
The CPA released this document this morning
Findings of the Canadian Police Association Operational Review of the Winnipeg Police Service
The WPS operates in a high demand environment that produces the highest rates of serious violent crime among metropolitan centres in Canada.
The WPS faces unique challenges providing effective policing services to the urban Aboriginal community and to an ever-growing Newcomer community, particularly in the downtown core and North End areas of the city.
The WPS is experiencing significant downloading of cases that would more appropriately be managed by social services and other agencies. Responding to incidents involving persons with mental illness and runaway youth places significant and growing demands on patrol officers’ time and the WPS resources.
Two of the Patrol districts are significantly understaffed, and operate with far fewer cars than the service demands dictate.
Due to these heavy service demands, WPS officers are primarily involved in reactive policing. This significantly hinders their ability to engage in proactive problem solving and to build community partnerships.
The response times to serious incidents in most districts is far beyond accepted best practices and places victims and the community at risk.
There is an immediate need to strengthen the analytical capacities of the WPS to provide the basis for an intelligence-led police service.
There is a need for all WPS Units, and investigative units in particular, to develop business plans to track demands, responses, and outcomes.