A national police union has quietly conducted an operational review of the Winnipeg Police Service to counter a review ordered by city council that hardliners expect will find millions of dollars in savings.
The Canadian Police Association hired Simon Fraser University criminologist Curt Griffiths to head a review team that spent several months earlier this year meeting with community leaders and WPS officials and reviewing all aspects of WPS operations.
CPA president Tom Stamatakis said he shared concerns brought to him by the Winnipeg Police Association that the outcome of the review by American-based Matrix Consulting Groups was predetermined before it began.
"The way the (council-ordered) announcement was made was troubling," Stamatakis said. "Before the review even occurred, they were anticipating there would be millions of dollars in savings... It seemed council was presuming an outcome even before the review had been done."
City council approved an operational review of the WPS in its 2012 budget, issued a request for proposals a year ago and awarded the contract to Matrix in December 2012 at a cost of $174,000.
It did not identify the firm until January. Matrix has a reputation of recommending job and service cuts after similar reviews of U.S. police forces.
Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland said Matrix's expertise was dealing with American police forces, which have historically had higher per capita staff ratios and where it's been easier to make budget cuts.
Sutherland said he's not convinced the type of budget-saving measures Matrix generated in the U.S. are realistic for the Winnipeg Police Service.
Stamatakis said the CPA review, which cost about $200,000 and was paid for entirely by the association, should be completed and released by mid-September before the Matrix review.
Griffiths' team was given full co-operation by WPS executives, Stamatakis said, adding he believes they saw the process as a positive experience.
"We were able to have that access with consent of the service," Stamatakis said. "The service came at it from the perspective that 'we want to have a very careful review of our operations to see where we are doing things well, where we are seeing some challenges and whether there are issues that need to be dealt with.' "
Coun. Scott Fielding, chairman of the Winnipeg Police Board, said he was aware of the police union review and senior police service officers were given permission to participate and co-operate fully.
Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), who has chaired finance and protection and community services committees, said the two reviews did their research in a similar way, but added it was no secret council expects the Matrix review to generate savings.
"The focus (of the Matrix report) is to spend our money a little bit smarter," he said.
Stamatakis said critics of police forces in Canada have become fixated on policing costs and ignore the harder-to-measure value of policing.
"Policing is not a factory producing widgets," Stamatakis said. "We just wanted to make sure the conversation around police costs and resources was a complete and contextual conversation rather than one just focused on dollars."
He said he expects the final report will recommend the reallocation of resources to higher-need areas, call for reviews of existing deployment models, identify funding gaps and suggest possible financial efficiencies.