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Authority of police board questioned

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QUESTIONS are being raised over what authority and responsibilities the fledgling police board can exercise over the Winnipeg Police Service.

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

The Police Services Act

Sec. 28 (2) The police board must:

(b) ensure that community needs and values are reflected in the policing priorities, objectives, programs and strategies;

(c) ensure that police services are delivered in a manner consistent with community needs, values and expectations;

The debate was sparked by two programs 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 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 asked.

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 the legislation that set up the police boards required both the transit and school programs to be approved by the board first, 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."

Norquay said 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.

Clunis said the school resource program is an "operational" issue that the board cannot be involved in.

"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.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2014 A4

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