Parking deal in works to protect staff at police HQ

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Winnipeg Police Service employees may be getting a secured floor of downtown parking stalls after complaints their current parking options leave them at risk of assault and vehicle sabotage.

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Winnipeg Police Service employees may be getting a secured floor of downtown parking stalls after complaints their current parking options leave them at risk of assault and vehicle sabotage.

City council will consider a call to devote the bottom floor of the Millennium Library Parkade to personal vehicles of police officers and civilian staff who work at WPS headquarters at 245 Smith St. The change is meant to address “a longstanding grievance” from the union that represents the staff, which accuses the city and WPS of failing to provide safe and secure parking.

“It wasn’t just… when we moved into (the current) headquarters that this became an issue. Even at the Public Safety Building (the former downtown headquarters on Princess Street), we had members being assaulted, threatened. We had sabotage being done to vehicles where the lug nuts were being removed,” said Moe Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Smith Street entrance to the Millennium Library Parkade. City council will consider a call to devote the bottom floor of the Millennium Library Parkade to personal vehicles of police officers and civilian staff who work at WPS headquarters at 245 Smith St.

In one case, the son of a WPS member borrowed a family vehicle and the wheel fell off, he said. In another, a suspect pointed a gun at an employee and pulled the trigger twice, though the weapon malfunctioned, said Sabourin.

The union leader said his association has tracked about 100 incidents linked to parking safety since 2015, including a stabbing. Other staff members reported being threatened and chased into the building.

“There (are) some significant safety issues, not only for the police officers… but our staff members. (Civilian staff) don’t have any use-of-force training or any weapons they can carry with them,” he said.

Presently, WPS staff must take whatever parking stalls they can find for their personal vehicles, in unsecured parkades, surface lots or on the street, said Sabourin.

If council approves the new plan, the union would have 90 days to confirm there is sufficient demand from members to rent all 264 parking stalls at the standard rate of $275 per space per month. If interest falls far short, no changes will be made to the parkade, a city report notes.

Sabourin said he expects WPS members will want the spots, noting the deal stems from a joint proposal between the police service and the union and is meant to avoid an arbitration hearing over the safety grievance.

“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a perfect solution that’s going to make everybody 100 per cent safe, but this is another option for our members to take advantage of to make sure that they are arriving at the workplace and leaving the workplace in a safe manner,” he said.

The city report estimates it would cost the municipal government $200,000 to modify the parkade floor to allow card access to WPS members only. The city would also lose about $95,600 in revenue each year, mostly due to the loss of premium parking rates charged during special events. All costs require approval in the city’s 2023 budget process.

The report notes monthly passes could be split by officers who work opposite shifts, allowing each member to pay a reduced price of $137.50 per month.

If council rejects the proposal, the union grievance will proceed to arbitration. If demand exceeds 264 spaces, further talks would begin to try to free up more spaces in the parkade, the report notes.

Sabourin said other Winnipeg police stations have secure parking lots, something the downtown location lacks.

The Winnipeg Police Service declined to comment on the parking safety risk to staff. It referred questions to the city’s corporate communications department. A city spokesperson said the municipal government was not able to answer that question.

Joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

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.

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