Police halt new special-duty bookings during pandemic
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/04/2020 (947 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Police Service has stopped taking new bookings for special duty policing.
The program that contracts out officers to provide security at special events and stores, as well as some traffic escorts, has largely stopped for now, due to the threat of COVID-19, city council’s executive policy committee heard at a Tuesday meeting.
“We stopped taking any new bookings for special duty, based on that respect. However, we are honouring some that are long-term, that they had booked for a number of months,” Art Stannard, a WPS deputy chief, said via a video connection.
Stannard said the change happened within the past month.
His comments came after Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre) asked if special duty shifts would be halted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Gilroy said she’s concerned extra work would put officers at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, by adding to frequent interactions with the public.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re protecting our front-line service workers… and that if any of them do get COVID-19, that we have enough staff to take over,” she said.
When asked how many long-term special duty arrangements are still underway and when they’ll end, police did not provide further details Tuesday. In an email, WPS Const. Jay Murray noted special duty options “will be reassessed when the COVID-19 pandemic lessens.”
Under the current fee structure, officers can complete special duty shifts during time off, with the City of Winnipeg charging about $116/hour per constable.
EPC was asked to approve a call to give WPS Chief Danny Smyth more power to raise fees for special duty police, which sparked the discussion on the practice itself.
A public service report suggests the chief be able to increase the charge beyond the rate of inflation each year, to keep up with wage increases. It notes the inflation rate rose by 1.6 per cent in 2017, while WPS officer wages rose 2.5 per cent.
A city bylaw allows the chief financial officer to raise the special duty fee by an amount “up to the rate of inflation” each year.
EPC delayed its vote on the rate change for 60 days, asking police to add more financial details.
“The biggest thing that jumped out at me… is that on the financial impact page, the last page, it’s just blank,” said Mayor Brian Bowman.
Meanwhile, EPC cast divided votes on two other matters.
The committee cast a 4-3 vote to approve a heritage designation for the 113-year-old Somerset building, which would preserve two of its facades. The building’s owners have argued the designation could interfere with a planned $150-million development.
Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James), Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) and Bowman opposed the designation, while Couns. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) and Gilroy voted for it.
EPC also cast a 4-3 vote to reject a proposal that would allow home construction closer to the Winnipeg airport. The plan would require an amendment to the Airport Vicinity Protection Plan, which severely limits residential construction near the transportation hub.
Airport officials argue it would trigger noise complaints that threaten its 24-hour operations; developers argue the city would benefit from the billion-dollar investment and noise concerns are exaggerated.
Mayes, Orlikow, Gilroy and Allard voted to reject the change, while Rollins, Gillingham and Bowman voted to support it.
City council is slated to cast a final vote on the heritage designation and housing development proposal May 6.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 4:50 PM CDT: Writethru
Updated on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 9:19 PM CDT: Fixes typo.