Premier Brian Pallister says the province will work with the city to help ensure the safety of off-duty Winnipeg police.
In a media scrum Tuesday, the Manitoba premier was asked about the Winnipeg Police Association’s safety concerns following the stabbing of an officer near the downtown police headquarters building last month and the attempted robbery Sunday of an officer who was walking to his private vehicle outside the HQ.
"I’m not fully briefed on the details at this point," Pallister said. "I’d only say we’re always concerned about the safety of — not just the police — but all of our government employees. So this is a critical issue. We have to do everything we can to ensure their safety and protection.
"That being said, we’ll work closely with the city and make sure we’re addressing this effectively."
Mayor Brian Bowman said while he appreciates the work done by the men and women with the Winnipeg Police Service, the lack of secured parking for off-duty officers is one of the many problems facing the building at 245 Smith St.
There was a parkade located next to the old headquarters at the Public Safety Building (PSB) on Princess Street, where police could park their own vehicles, with the upper floor walled off and only accessible by police.
Bowman said he believes further "dialogue" needs to take place, but he would not commit to anything.
Winnipeg Police Association president Mo Sabourin said the union is tired of hearing just talk, and that’s why it has asked the province’s workplace, safety and health department to step in and look at the situation.
"Everybody is passing the buck, saying we’re talking about it and talking about it," he said. "As far as we know, the service hasn’t even been contacted by the mayor’s office."
Sabourin said the secure parking in the parkade next to the PSB was only put in place after Workplace, Safety and Health ordered the city to install it to protect officers. He said in the last nine years, more than 100 union members and police staff have been involved in various incidents, including serious assaults, threats and vandalism to personal vehicles.
He said the original plan for the former Canada Post building and warehouse on Smith Street was to put the police offices into the tower at the front, and convert the warehouse in back to a parkade for police cruisers and private vehicles. However, after the city bought the building, it decided to convert the warehouse into the headquarters and rent out the tower, leaving only room to park cruisers.
Sabourin said the union proposed to the city three years ago it wall off a portion or all of the parkade underneath the Millennium Library for officers to park — and they would pay the going rate.
"Every major city provides safe and secure parking (for officers’ private vehicles) and, in many places, it is free," Sabourin said. "We’re not asking for free. We are in a unique profession and we have the ability to take away peoples’ liberty and there are people who take offence at us and want to get back at us."
— with files from Aldo Santin
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Updated on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 1:25 PM CST: adds photo