Mayoral candidate Motkaluk seeks to fold police board
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Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk wants the Winnipeg Police Board to fire the city’s top cop — then, if elected, she would seek to have the province abolish the board.
Motkaluk made the pledges in front of police headquarters Tuesday, where she criticized WPS Chief Danny Smyth for his comments in July, following a spate of assaults at The Forks and other high-profile violent incidents.
Smyth said at a July 8 news conference the violence was alarming, but nothing new amid year-on-year increases in such crime.
Motkaluk filed a complaint to the police board this week, asking for Smyth’s dismissal, under its rules of practice and procedure.
“Chief Smyth’s comments reflect a pattern of inadequate leadership and lack of accountability spanning several years,” she wrote in the complaint, which she provided to reporters.
“Our front-line police officers deserve better leadership, too. In the spring of 2021, a comprehensive survey of WPS members showed unacceptably high levels of burnout, PTSD, anxiety, and depression among front-line officers and civilian employees. Members attributed many of these mental health challenges to a lack of support from the executive team, specifically chief Smyth.”
A WPS spokeswoman declined comment Tuesday, adding the service would not respond to civic election promises during the campaign.
The police board extended Smyth’s contract last year, moving its expiry date to Nov. 30, 2023.
Motkaluk is the second mayoral candidate to call for Smyth’s dismissal.
On Sept. 8, Rick Shone blamed the WPS chief for low officer morale, rising crime rates and “waning public trust” in the ability of city police to keep people safe.
The calls come 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.
On Tuesday, Motkaluk said, if elected Oct. 26, she would lobby the province to amend legislation, during a review of the Police Services Act, to abolish the board and replace it with a public safety committee made up of city councillors.
“Winnipeggers elect that council to provide oversight of services that are being delivered in the city,” she said.
The candidate also said she would spend $1 million a year on dedicated Winnipeg Transit security and buy new radios for bus drivers.
Motkaluk said she would axe the jobs of existing Transit supervisors and use the cash, “plus a little bit more,” for dedicated WPS officers to “provide safety” on buses for drivers and riders.
Motkaluk also promised to seek increased collaboration between city police and RCMP, and to build secure parking for the downtown police HQ — which the police union has long lobbied for.
Professional development for city staff: Bokhari
Elsewhere Tuesday, mayoral candidate Rana Bokhari promised a $1 million annual spend on professional development opportunities and mental health training for city staff.
“It’s the public servants who work quietly behind the scenes who do the work of the city, day in and day out,” Bokhari said in a statement. “But they’re also the ones who get blamed when things go wrong.”
She pledged, if elected, to ensure public servants have all they need to support a vibrant and diverse city, and said the service is struggling to attract and retain employees, which is impacting citizens.
The development would focus on leadership, digital skills and reconciliation learning and activities, her campaign said in a news release.
Bokhari said investing early in peer support and basic mental health training, similar to first aid training, the city could start to “prevent mental health decline.”
Meantime, mayoral candidate Kevin Klein is set to announce a plan Wednesday on how he would revamp critical infrastructure project planning and funding, if elected.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.