Rising emergency calls strain resources, police chief says
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The skyrocketing number of emergency calls means the city’s police chief will likely soon ask for more cash.
At the Winnipeg Police Board Friday, Winnipeg Police Service chief Danny Smyth said a request for more resources is “certainly worthy of discussion.”
He’s planning to submit an administrative report to the city requesting more resources later this year, he said.
“The demand for service is outstripping the resources that we have,” he told reporters.
However, Smyth noted, his role is to manage whatever comes out of the next collective agreement between the union that represents police officers, the Winnipeg Police Association, and the city.
“I would expect there will be some discussion with regard to resources in collective bargaining,” Smyth said.
The force was allocated $319.726 million this year, which accounts for just over a quarter of the total City of Winnipeg budget. That’s up from about $313 million the year prior.
Total projected expenses by the end of year are $327.344 million, according to the service’s latest financial report. The city has requested the police find $9.1 million in savings, but per the latest report to the board, the service expects to reach about a third of that.
Last year, the city approved $7.3 million in overspending over the approximately $313 million budget, $6.1 million less than requested.
During his presentation to the board, the chief focused on the police communications centre, which has had a consistently high turnover rate of 46 per cent over the past 10 years — while 30 per cent of new hires quit within a year.
Smyth said the communications centre is under “considerable strain” and the high attrition rate is the “canary in the coal mine” of police operations.
Supt. Dave Dalal told the board police are being dispatched to more than 500 calls a day this year, while there was a bump of 10 per cent in 2021 over the year prior.
Well-being checks remain the number one call for service — last year, police dispatched to 20,704.
Police board chair Markus Chambers said some of those calls might be better suited for different responders than police, which would in turn lessen the demand on officers.
“If the default is to dispatch police to all 911 calls, then it appears we do need officers — but if it’s a situation where we can better match the dispatch service to the service need, looking at alternative ways to resolve citizens’ in crisis’s needs, then it’s different options that are going to be explored,” Chambers said.
He pointed to checks on child welfare runaways as an example of a call that could be handled by social workers or crisis workers, rather than police.
Chambers said he’s asked the police service for information on officer training.
“Is it around mental health and addictions? And if that training isn’t there, why are we sending police out to respond to those calls? If we can better align the services… it’ll lessen the demand on police,” Chambers said.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Sunday, September 18, 2022 12:48 PM CDT: fixed typo in Coun. Chambers' quote