Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Member's exit stalls police board again

City's chosen member leaves, search for replacement starts

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The creation of the Winnipeg Police Board has been further delayed following the sudden resignation of a city appointee.

City council was poised to confirm its final appointments on Wednesday, but appointee Glenn Karr withdrew on Tuesday.

Protection and community services chairman Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James) said the city will delay its appointments to the police board for 60 days to find a replacement and to await the findings of a Manitoba Police Commission study on whether an outside agency should vet Winnipeg Police Board appointments.

Winnipeg and 10 other municipalities were required to establish civilian-led police boards after the province introduced the Police Services Act in 2009. The act was created following an inquiry into police conduct in the 2005 death of Crystal Taman, who was killed in a car crash involving an off-duty police officer.

The board will have the authority to hire police chiefs and act as a liaison between the community and the police, but will not oversee day-to-day operations or investigations.

Initially, the city announced it would appoint Fielding, lawyer Paul Edwards, Karr, Mary Jane Loustel and Elmwood Coun. Thomas Steen to the police board. The province nominated Leslie Spillet, but provincial appointees do not need city council approval.

Fielding declined to comment on the reason for Karr's resignation.

Karr, the president of Superblinds and Draperies, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"Everyone has a right to apply and everyone has a right to withdraw," Fielding said.

The latest delay in the creation of the Winnipeg Police Board comes less than two weeks after provincial appointee Louise Simbandumwe raised concern it is a conflict of interest for the Winnipeg Police Service to conduct security checks on citizens appointed to oversee the force.

Simbandumwe agreed to a security check, but suggested an outside body such as the RCMP should do it, not the police force she is being appointed to oversee.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan wrote to the Manitoba Police Commission asking its opinion on the matter.

The commission has launched a formal study of how police-board appointees are vetted in other parts of Canada and will issue recommendations when the review is completed in the next couple of months.

The province has said it will wait for the commission's findings before it names its second appointee.

Fielding said he supports the current process of having the Winnipeg Police Service conduct background checks on citizen appointees, noting other western Canadian cities follow the same procedures. However, he said the city wants to wait to make sure it has all of the proper procedures, policies and members in place before creating the board.

"I think it's important to slow down and do things right as opposed to rushing into something and doing things wrong," Fielding said.

A provincial cabinet spokeswoman said the province thinks it's reasonable for the city to await the police commission's advice.

Mayor Sam Katz said nearly 80 people applied to be appointed to Winnipeg's police board, and the city will not have trouble finding another candidate.

"Obviously, it won't be a very difficult task. There are many other qualified people I'm sure and we have lots of time to do it," Katz said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 A7

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