Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Does any other candidate for chief have a prayer?

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Police chief Keith McCaskill may get his wish, from what I hear.

When McCaskill announced four months ago he would be retiring in December, the chief remarked that he hoped his successor would be selected from within the Winnipeg Police Service.

"We've got some excellent people inside the organization," he said. "I'm hoping that it's going to be an inside chief, you know, somebody from inside the ranks, but we'll see what they decide."

By "they" he meant the city's bureaucracy-led search committee.

Well, this week a serving police officer told me there were no outside candidates for that search committee to consider. Although what that could mean is, as of this week when the long list was being whittled down, only insiders may have survived the cut.

The officer I spoke with suggested the lack of outside candidates -- which really means from outside the province and the local police community -- had to do with the Winnipeg chief's relatively low salary. That was the same rumour last time around in 2007.

McCaskill made $178,490 in 2011. Edmonton, which has a total police and civilian complement of about 2,200 compared with Winnipeg's 1,850, pays its new police chief $260,000 this year, plus a six per cent performance bonus.

Three years ago, Vancouver's police chief made $303,000 in a city proper that has a slightly smaller total staff complement than Winnipeg's.

Of course, Vancouver's cost of housing is significantly higher, which has to be a factor.

In any event, the Winnipeg chief's salary wouldn't be a factor if they were choosing internally. Which, if it happens, will also make the politically powerful and persuasive police association happy, too.

So who applied? And who is the leading candidate?

The way I hear it, one of the applicants was acting Supt. Danny Smyth. He's the son of a police officer who has a strong background in crime analysis and has most recently been in charge of District 6.

Smyth has long been one of my favourite cops. But, again from what I'm told, Smyth didn't make the short list.

There were others who sought the job internally, among them Supt. Dave Thorne and Supt. Devon Clunis.

My hunch, and it's only that, is Clunis is the top candidate and probably was even before the city hired a headhunter to handle the recruiting process.

Last spring, when the Free Press asked former police chief Dale Henry what the city should look for in a new chief, he said, "(He or she) should have an established record of honesty and integrity, good managerial and organizational skills and also be able to manage the stress of a high-profile position of responsibility and the relentless scrutiny it receives."

Henry also said the chief's role requires a lot of interaction with the public.

I don't know about his managerial organizational skills, but Clunis ranks way up there on the honesty, integrity and public-interaction scale.

"He's a very straight shooter," one former senior officer told me.

Clunis also has a theology-based master's degree.

And he's popular in the ranks. As the police chaplain, he's the one cop who's always been ready to be there when other officers need personal support the most. That means his door has always been open and undoubtedly always would be.

There's something else in Clunis's favour, although it's only a bonus.

He's a member of a minority.

Which, in a way, is why he decided to become a police officer.

Clunis came to Canada from Jamaica as a 12-year-old. And when he grew up, it was his little nephews who led him to his career.

As he explained to Free Press reporter Gabrielle Giroday back in 2010: "I remember watching television and always seeing, you know what, the black guys are always in the back of the cruiser car, they're always the bad guys. And at the time, I had a couple of young nephews and I thought, you need to do something that's going to set an example for them. And I looked around, and there were no black police officers but I had great respect for police officers, so I said, let's do something like that, where it's very public; people can see we don't always need to be in the back of the cruiser car. That's why I became a police officer initially."

Now he could become Winnipeg's next police chief. And, as one former cop wryly suggested, if he does, Clunis possesses something that might give him the extra edge that Winnipeg needs in fighting crime.

His divinity degree.

"So," the ex-cop quipped, "he could always pray for things to get better."

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2012 B1

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