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Police officials and board members disagree over police board's authority

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In this file photo, the Winnipeg Police Board meets for the first time at City Hall on June 21, 2013.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

In this file photo, the Winnipeg Police Board meets for the first time at City Hall on June 21, 2013. Photo Store

Questions are being raised over what authority and responsibilities the fledgling Winnipeg Police Board can exercise over the Winnipeg Police Service.

The issue arose at a Winnipeg Police Board meeting earlier today, when executive director Don Norquay and senior police officials disagreed over how much direction the police are obligated to take from the board.

The debate was sparked by two programs that city council approved last week: assigning cadets as security on transit buses, and the renewal of the cops-in-school-programs.

The board was presented with the agreements as done deals but Norquay argued it's the board's legislated responsibility to determine if the police should be involved in them in the first place. Chief Devon Clunis said the programs are operational issues beyond the board's jurisdiction.

Board member Mary Jane Loustel said she was disappointed that the board had not been consulted before the programs went to council.

"If we’re just going to continue on doing this, how are we going to be able to address the responsibilities of our role as the (police) board," Loustel said.

The police board had its first meeting a year ago, after the province approved enabling legislation, which requires all communities with a police service to set up an independent police board to oversee the police. Norquay, a retired senior civil servant, was hired as its first executive director in October.

Norquay said that the legislation that set up the police boards required that both programs be approved first by the board, which would then recommend council take the necessary action to implement them.

Deputy chief Art Stannard said the two agreements were provided to the board for their information only. Stannard said the cops-in-schools program, known as school resource officers, is a 10-year-old program that predates the police board.

But Norquay said it’s the board’s responsibility to ensure which programs the WPS undertakes.

"Because it’s been 10 years in the making, does that mean the board has no jurisdiction in this relationship – of course not," Norquay said. "The board must retain that authority. This involves a policy approval….It’s clearly a matter that requires the approval of the board, in my respectful opinion and advice to the board."

Norquay said that while the board has no say in how the police carry out their daily duties, the board’s authority is clear in determining which programs and initiatives the police carry out and ensure those programs meet community expectations.

But Chief Devon Clunis said the school resource program is an "operational" issue that the board cannot be involved in, adding the board and the police will need to come to agreement on the issue.

Norquay disagreed with Clunis’s interpretation of the board’s role.

"Just because the matter is operational does not mean it’s outside the scope of the jurisdiction of the board," Norquay said. "All programs of the (police) service are operational," adding the board would have no say in how the school resource officer goes about their duty or the daily duties of any member of the services

"But the general oversight, the general approval of specific programs, the board needs to ensure they meet community needs, expectations and values."

Loustel said the board’s governance sub-committee will review the issue in more detail, adding the board wants to see all agreements the WPS has with third-party groups to ensure they provide value to the community and are consistent with policing priorities.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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