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Our police board, the blind leading the blind

Blog of the week: The Power of Words

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The City of Winnipeg recently announced they've filled six of the seven positions required to make the new Winnipeg Police Board operational. The appointees include:

-- City councillor Scott Fielding, chairman of the board

-- Paul Edwards (Lawyer), vice chair

Glen Karr, president, Superblinds & Draperies

-- Mary Jane Loustel, National Aboriginal Program executive for IBM Canada

-- City councillor Thomas Steen

-- Leslie Spillet, executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk

For those of you who missed it, the board's primary purpose is to provide civilian governance respecting:

-- The enforcement of the law

-- The maintenance of the public peace

-- The prevention of crime

-- The board will also provide administrative direction and organization required to provide an adequate and effective police service in the municipality.

According to the job description, board members are required to demonstrate experience and understanding of:

-- Urban aboriginal context

-- Community crime prevention

-- Strategic planning

-- Legal

-- Government

-- Policy making

-- Risk management/audit

-- Communications

-- Human resources

-- Conflict resolution

-- Board/advisory experience

When you review these skill sets, it's apparent that this list of attributes could be plagiarized from just about any police officer's resume. Unfortunately, the eligibility requirements stipulate that "a person may not be appointed if they are a current or former member of the Winnipeg Police Service."

In an apparent condemnation of every police officer who ever served the City of Winnipeg, the policy makers make it clear to us just how much they value our years of dedicated service and experience.

Police board websites for Vancouver, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon do not appear to have exclusions for persons with experience in law enforcement.

Does anyone else see the discriminatory nature of this policy?

We are only left to speculate regarding the rationale for this exclusionary policy. Could it be that the policy-makers took this step to ensure that the board would be perceived as a separate entity from the police service, thus removing any possible suggestions of bias?

If bias is a concern, then the appointment of Leslie Spillet perplexes me.

I'd never heard of Spillet prior to reading her race-infused quotes in Randy Turner's sensational story: On the front lines of the missing and murdered women tragedy, pain never fades.

The Spillet quotes offer great insight into the mindset of the non-biased open-minded police board member:

"We know that every morning, a man in south Winnipeg wakes up and drives to the North End to rape children."


"The freaking army would be digging up every inch of that garbage dump, to find a white child. We know it. We see it. It just tells us who we are." (Reference to the Brady Landfill search for the remains of Tanya Nepinak)


"Do you think if a bunch of kids from River Heights started killing themselves or each other that something wouldn't be done?"

If you didn't read it, you may find my rebuttal, Aboriginal Apocalypse, informative.

Policing in Winnipeg is a demanding and difficult undertaking that requires experience and insight into this high-stakes profession. People that make policing their life's work develop specialized skill sets that are just not common to butchers, bakers or candlestick makers. So why exclude a broad-based talent pool that contains people who actually meet the criteria posted in the job description.

The decision to exclude Winnipeg police officers from this process is a discriminatory exercise in misguided political correctness. I know dozens of police officers who would be tremendous assets to any police board.

Unfortunately, WPS officers need not apply.

With the exclusion of professionals with law enforcement experience, it seems that our police board might consist of a few good-intentioned people who are destined to do a job without the proper insight required to effectively discharge their duties.

That might cut it for dozens of communities across Canada, but not for the Murder & Violent Crime Capital of Canada.

I would like to be optimistic regarding the board's odds for success, but the pessimist in me sees this as an experiment equivalent to the blind leading the blind.


James Jewell retired from the Winnipeg Police Service after a 25-year career. Follow his blog at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2013 A10

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