Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hail to the new police chief

Stresses role of community at swearing-in

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There was plenty of pomp and circumstance as Devon Clunis was sworn in as Winnipeg's 17th police chief on Friday, but also what is becoming his trademark pledge -- that with community help, the city will become a safer place.

With several hundred people crowded into the second-level foyer of council chambers to watch the ceremony, Clunis repeatedly stressed that policing alone is not capable of casting off Winnipeg's dubious titles as "murder capital" and "violent crime capital" of Canada. The varied social issues of poverty and addiction and the problems they spawn must be tackled by the entire community, Clunis said.

"Today, I am declaring that we will make a difference in preventing crime and disorder in our city," Clunis told the crowd that included civic and provincial politicians, leaders from the province's aboriginal community, members of the Winnipeg Police Service and many of his friends and family.

"I am declaring that Winnipeg will become a safer city for all citizens -- We will do this.

"As your chief, I am committed to take the lead but I need all of you to go with me."

The formal part of the ceremony began with a piper parading in Clunis, his wife and family, outgoing chief Keith McCaskill and Mayor Sam Katz.

The formal transition of power from McCaskill to Clunis involved a police service colour guard presenting a staff and flag to McCaskill, who presented it to Clunis, who then planted it in a stand along with the city's flag.

Chief Provincial Court Judge Ken Champagne presided over the formal ceremony, as Phil Sheegl, the city's chief administrative officer, administered the oath of office.

Clunis is a 25-year veteran of the police service and the first person from a visible minority to hold the top job. He came to Winnipeg as a child with his family from Jamaica.

He rose up through the ranks, working in all areas but gaining expertise within the administrative framework of the police service. Clunis and fellow superintendent Dave Thorne were the two finalists for the top post.

A police chaplain for the past 14 years, Clunis generated controversy last week when it was revealed he had given an interview to a Christian newsmagazine, promoting the power of faith, prayer and action as a way Winnipeggers could help make the city a safer community.

After being sworn in, Clunis opened with a familiar joke he's trotted out since his appointment was announced at the beginning of October: contrasting his shiny, bald head with McCaskill's full mane of silver.

Clunis thanked several individuals for the guidance and help they provided him over the years, including his Grade 6 teacher and several teachers from St. John's High School, senior officers of the police service and his wife and mother, who were both at the ceremony.

Clunis was specific regarding how he believes Winnipeg can become a safer community, promising to put more officers on the front lines to deal with crime, and more officers walking beats to build relationships with various neighbourhoods.

"We will work co-operatively with the community in addressing social causes of crime," he said. "These aren't traditional police issues but we must become a catalyst for change in our city."

Clunis also promised consultation with the aboriginal and newcomer communities.

He said every citizen has a responsibility to make Winnipeg a safer community.

"It is incumbent upon every citizen to do their part in adding to the overall welfare of our city.

"Crime is not simply a police problem," Clunis said. "If we each do our part, we can eradicate conditions conducive to the growth of crime in our city."

Later, during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters, Clunis said he doesn't yet have a detailed plan on how he will carry out his vision, repeating what he said a month ago that he planned to consult with police and various community groups.

-- with files from Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 A4

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