Firing chief of police among list of latest mayoral promises
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/09/2022 (273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A mayoral candidate says one of his first priorities, if elected, would be to fire Winnipeg’s police chief — despite the fact the mayor alone does not have that power.
“It’s never a good feeling to stand and call one person out, one leadership position out, but going forward as a new mayor, there is no way that I could see that we could continue on with the current leadership,” Rick Shone said at a news conference in front of the Winnipeg Police Service downtown headquarters Thursday.
Shone blamed WPS Chief Danny Smyth for low officer morale, rising crime rates and “waning public trust” in the ability of city police to keep people safe.
“There have been major issues with morale (and) safety concerns with officers… We’ve seen what I would consider a number of failures on the part of the chief.”
The mayor can’t fire the police chief; that authority falls to the Winnipeg Police Board. The board extended Smyth’s contract last year, moving its expiry date to Nov. 30, 2023.
Shone said Thursday he would seek a spot on the board — a step that would require city council approval — then push Smyth to resign and bring in someone else to fill the role.
“The organization is decaying and the city is also suffering for it,” said Shone.
The WPS declined comment on the matter, stating its officials won’t respond to any civic election announcements.
Shone’s call to replace the police chief comes after a series of complaints from the union that represents local officers. The Winnipeg Police Association has repeatedly blamed Smyth for failing to address low morale. A third-party review released last year gathered complaints the WPS workplace was toxic, frustrating and/or stressful.
Meantime, the head of the Winnipeg Police Board said a plan is in place to improve officer morale, and he remains confident in the current chief’s ability to deliver on it.
“The environment of policing right now is not a good one, so we can’t just blame one person. We have to look internally (at) all of the issues that police are responding to and (find) a better way (for) how we deliver those services,” said board’s chairman Coun. Markus Chambers.
Chambers said outside forces, such as calls to defund police, are adding intense scrutiny that extends beyond the WPS.
“It’s the Winnipeg Police Board that hires and evaluates the chief’s performance, accordingly, and this is set out in legislation through the Police Services Act. So, for a mayoral candidate to come out and say he would replace the police chief… that’s an empty promise,” said Chambers.
Elsewhere Thursday, another mayoral candidate promised to create 1,000 social enterprise jobs during his first term of office, if he’s elected Oct. 26.
Shaun Loney said he would ensure city projects and programs are targeted to hire those facing barriers to employment.
“I believe Winnipeg’s defining issue is connecting the people who most need the work with the work that needs to be done,” said Loney.
If elected, he plans to hire women who rely on social service agencies to provide a Winnipeg Tree Trust and make the greatest possible use of the city’s sustainable procurement action plan, to ensure people with disabilities, new Canadians, Indigenous workers and those previously involved with police get hired.
Loney said the City of Winnipeg should also seek ways to deliver green energy and recycling projects, such as installing solar and electric charging infrastructure, with a focus on hiring people who face employment barriers.
Such programs can help those in frequent contact with police to break that cycle, he said. “What we’ll see is a safer city and… taxpayers getting much more value for their dollars.”
Mayoral hopeful Scott Gillingham is vowing to change construction policies so road work can be completed faster.
If elected, Gillingham said he would aim to pre-tender road work up to three years ahead to lock in labour costs, simplify the construction contract bidding process, allow more recycled materials to be used on projects, hire a chief construction officer, convene a 10-day task force on speeding up road repairs and partner with other groups to increase the construction labour pool.
“We must be more efficient on capital budget investments, just as we’ve worked to be more efficient on operating spending,” Gillingham said in a news release.
There are 15 registered candidates in the mayoral race. The deadline to file nomination papers to get on the ballot is Sept. 20.
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 Thursday, September 8, 2022 7:07 PM CDT: Fixes typo