Winnipeg's next top cop should be a good listener who can keep a lid on rising administrative costs, Mayor Sam Katz suggested as the city begins a search to replace departing chief Keith McCaskill.

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Winnipeg's next top cop should be a good listener who can keep a lid on rising administrative costs, Mayor Sam Katz suggested as the city begins a search to replace departing chief Keith McCaskill.

On Friday, McCaskill announced his intention to resign from the Winnipeg Police Service when his five-year term ends on Dec. 9.

Mayor Sam Katz says he wants the next chief of police to have good listening skills, good relations with the public, and a good handle on the police service's budget.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayor Sam Katz says he wants the next chief of police to have good listening skills, good relations with the public, and a good handle on the police service's budget.

Katz said he believes the next chief should continue McCaskill's penchant for making himself available to politicians and the general public.

"I would like to think whoever the next chief is, that he or she would have that same mentality. I think it's extremely important," Katz told reporters several hours after McCaskill announced his resignation.

Katz also said he'd like to see the next chief attempt to get a handle on police overtime, one factor in an escalating Winnipeg Police Service budget that now accounts for a full quarter of the city's $900-million annual operating budget.

The mayor, however, will not have a direct say in the choice of the next chief, who will be selected by a committee led by Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl.

Katz said he expects that committee to select a chief by Dec. 9 -- there's no reason to assume otherwise, the mayor said, given the ample preparation time afforded by McCaskill's announcement.

The current chief said he'd like to see an internal candidate get the job, as an outside contender could have "a lot of challenges" understanding the culture of the organization and the city's population.

"I'd like to see an inside chief, because of the relationships that have been built (within) the community," McCaskill said. "It's always difficult to bring an outside chief in, because they've got all of those things, those barriers that they have to fight through."

Keith McCaskill

Keith McCaskill

Katz called that suggestion ironic, noting McCaskill was not a member of the Winnipeg Police Service when he was selected to succeed Jack Ewatski as chief.

The city will conduct a broad search for the best possible candidate and will not just peruse existing members of the police service, the mayor said.

"That's probably a common thought at first and there's nothing wrong with the chief expressing his opinion," said Katz, who rarely contradicts McCaskill in public.

McCaskill promoted two deputy chiefs during his term -- Shelley Hart and Art Stannard.

Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said it was too soon for him to speculate who may be a frontrunner to replace the current chief. However, he said he was very interested to see who will take over the police service. Officers face challenges -- including dangerous working conditions -- that were brought to light by recent arbitration hearings that are attempting to settle a wage dispute between the city and its police.

"We want to make sure that Winnipeg remains a place that people want to enter a career in policing," Sutherland said.

Katz, however, claimed the new chief will have less autonomy when the province follows through on a pledge to create a commission to oversee the Winnipeg Police Service.

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