A senior city councillor has called for a new strategy to reduce ballooning police overtime costs.
Coun. Scott Fielding, head of the protection and community services committee that oversees the Winnipeg Police Service, said the OT bill is too high: "Right now, the levels are unacceptable."
Fielding made his comments after it was revealed a special traffic-ticket enforcement program last year paid out $860,000 in overtime. Much of that money from Project Drive was paid to off-duty police officers called in from other units to hand out traffic tickets.
The fines collected paid for the OT.
Fielding said the city needs to work with police and its new police board to develop a strategy to cut OT. Members of the police board have yet to be named.
He also said the city should examine whether it makes more sense to devote more officers to the traffic unit, which would be cheaper than bringing in officers from other units to work overtime.
Police wouldn't comment Thursday.
Last March, former police chief Keith McCaskill told Fielding's committee that police planned to collect an extra $1.4 million in ticket revenue by using officers from other units to augment traffic enforcement. The service was to spend an extra $1 million on overtime.
Details on Project Drive were obtained by Todd Dube of WiseUp Winnipeg through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request. The documents show the total regular overtime cost for Project Drive from June to November last year was $859,522,56.
Dube said Project Drive is one symptom of a traffic-enforcement program that needs an overhaul. He has been highly critical of the city's photo-enforcement program and of how police hand out tickets at certain locations where he says there is improper signage, or where the posted speed limit should be higher. WiseUp released a list Thursday of locations where it wants traffic enforcement suspended until better signage is installed by the city.
"Traffic engineers as their job used to take pride in correcting these things and improving traffic flow and addressing safety issues," Dube said. "They've been hijacked by politics."
Last November, the provincial Highway Traffic Board held public hearings to examine boosting speed limits on sections of Pembina Highway, Dugald Road, Grant Avenue and Waverley Street. The board proposed increasing speed limits to reduce confusion on a number of different speed limits on the same road.
Traffic board chairman Alf Rivers said Thursday the review has been put on hold pending a provincial review of speed limits.
"We delayed it," Rivers said. "There's no point duplicating something that's going to be included in a far wider study."
Highways Minister Steve Ashton has said the goal of the review is to devise more consistent standards for speed limits on Manitoba roads.
Traffic-enforcement locations WiseUp Winnipeg says should be suspended until the city improves signage to better warn drivers:
1 McPhillips Street and Inkster Boulevard (right lane must turn right). Sign should be overhead at intersection and advance-warning sign needs to be posted well before intersection.
2 Ellice Avenue and Empress Street (no left turn). Should be sign at near side of intersection and advance sign before intersection.
3 Corydon Avenue eastbound at Kelvin Boulevard (speed reduction). Sign too high, too far from road.
4 Dugald Road eastbound at Plessis Road (speed reduction). Lack of median sign.
5 Kenaston Boulevard northbound and southbound at Carpathia Road (speed reduction). Lack of median signs.
6 University Crescent northbound at Thatcher Drive (maximum 50 km/h sign posted after enforcement location, instead of before for traffic coming from Chancellor Matheson's 70 km/h zone).
7 Slaw Rebchuk Overpass northbound and southbound (No maximum 50 km/h signs on Salter Avenue, but signs are posted on Logan Avenue, which lacks enforcement).
8 Maryland Bridge northbound (No maximum 50 km/h signs on Maryland, but signs are posted on Wellington Crescent, which lacks enforcement).