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This article was published 28/1/2009 (4487 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
PROPOSED changes to the Winnipeg Police Service transfer policy slashing plainclothes investigators’ time in specialized units could have a far-reaching and potentially negative impact on the quality of police work, opponents of the plan say.
The Winnipeg Police Service has drafted a policy by which officers in key non-patrol investigative units — including the organized crime, sex crime, commercial crime and major crime squads — must transfer out of their units after shorter stints.
If the proposed changes take effect May 1, detective sergeants would spend a maximum of four years with their specialized unit, down from the current five years. Plainclothes constables could be transferred after only a year of investigative experience, down from three.
Some rank-and-file officers are unhappy with the proposal, saying it’s not enough time to gain experience in handling complex investigations. They say that inexperience could hamper conviction rates when cases make their way to trial.
Units exempted from the changes include the K9 unit, the newly formed tactical support team and the forensic identification unit.
The Winnipeg Police Association — the union representing city officers — said the policy is only under consideration, and that the top brass is seeking input from officers regarding the changes. However, a police source within the WPS said it’s "pretty much a done deal."
Chief Keith McCaskill said that isn’t the case. "It’s a draft policy," he said.
He declined to speak to the specifics of the proposal as it's internal police business. " What’s the story?" he wondered. "We change policy all the time." McCaskill said it was " unusual" for the executive to seek input on policy from officers, but in this case felt it was important. "I want to see what the membership has to say," he said.
It’s believed the changes are being proposed by the WPS executive to bolster the resource and experience levels of the general patrol side of the force with more veterans out on the street.
In an interview with McCaskill in early January, he estimated three out of four uniformed officers currently with the force have less than 10 years experience and spend most of their professional time going from call to call.
Union president Mike Sutherland said Tuesday the proposed scenario could be considered one of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and that the WPS should consider a trial period or a ‘ grandfathering’ in of transfer agreements made with already-assigned officers.
"The issue really becomes one of, ‘OK, you want to sacrifice your investigative competence to deal with a lack of experience on the street in general patrol,’" Sutherland said.
"What you’re going to do is, instead of having a lack of experience on a general patrol basis, you’ll have it in plainclothes and other specialty units."
Sutherland said that leaves investigators handling unfamiliar and complex case files and interacting w ith witnesses they haven’t built any rapport with. It also means asking officers to suddenly transition to another or back to general patrol.