Police chief’s contract extended despite morale problem
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/03/2021 (802 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The contract for Winnipeg’s police chief has been extended for two years at a time when morale among rank-and-file officers has hit rock bottom and the union has said it doubts Danny Smyth is the person to fix it.
On Friday, Winnipeg Police Board chairman Markus Chambers announced Smyth’s contract, which was set to expire on Nov. 30, 2021, will be extended to Nov. 30, 2023.
Chambers said Smyth has done a great job engaging with community groups for years, which includes work with the Bear Clan and Main Street Project.
“That was one of the strategic plans that we as a board wanted to see, is those improved partnerships, and we certainly (think) he’s (done) that. We felt that this is the direction that we wanted to continue,” he said.
The president of the Winnipeg Police Association, the union for officers, called the contract extension “disappointing.”
Moe Sabourin told the Free Press officer morale declined dramatically after the suicide of one constable and the sudden death of another, both of which took place in February.
“The two recent deaths of current members and the way that the chief dealt with their families has… angered and enraged the membership,” said Sabourin. “It’s a very deep problem.”
The union leader said the chief didn’t reach out to one constable’s family until more than a week after the death occurred.
“From what we’re hearing from our members, (low morale) is a problem that is deep-rooted. And we think that this is a situation that the chief is going to be unable to repair,” said Sabourin.
He also accused Smyth of failing to fight changes to the police budget as the city strives to reduce annual cost increases for the service.
The police service recently agreed to a third-party review of police morale.
Smyth said recommendations from the review should be available by late spring or early summer.
Smyth said he’s aware of the union’s complaints and agrees morale is low. He declined to offer details of his response to the families of the constables who died, noting he tried to reach out while respecting their privacy.
He said there are several factors hurting police morale right now, which go beyond his own job performance.
“We’re all fatigued from the pandemic (and) the police have an added layer, with a lot of the social justice focus on there. That… has a cumulative impact,” said Smyth.
Anti-police protests have been common in Winnipeg and around the world for a year. Many Winnipeggers have lobbied city council to reduce the police budget and spend that cash on recreation and community services.
Smyth said the department has attempted to support officers who are coping with those pressures.
As for his own contract extension, the police chief said he considers it a reflection of the good work of front-line officers.
“They’re doing a very good job at a very difficult time,” said Smyth.
Chambers said he expects the morale review will provide feedback that can help the police board set benchmarks for police chief performance, if the results show a need for improvement.
“Just based on those responses … (we may be) able to attach performance metrics along the way in this two-year extension of the contract,” he said.
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.