Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth says there’s no truth behind a police union attack ad that claims long wait times are common for the 911 system.

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This article was published 14/9/2018 (1172 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth says there’s no truth behind a police union attack ad that claims long wait times are common for the 911 system.

Smyth told reporters Friday that 93 per cent of all calls to 911 are answered within 10 seconds. The remaining seven per cent are answered within 30 to 180 seconds, he said.

"We are well within industry standards" for response times on 911, Smyth said.

The chief’s statements run counter to the message being pushed by the Winnipeg Police Association in an ad targeting incumbent mayor Brian Bowman during the civic election cycle.

The 30-second video features a young woman as a victim of a home invasion, taking refuge in a closet while frantically trying to reach 911, but being placed on hold. The voiceover says: "Why is Winnipeg 911 not fully staffed? Ask Mayor Bowman. When you dial 911 — Every. Second. Counts."

The police association has been critical of city council’s decision to hold WPS budget increases to inflation, arguing it hampers police response times and that crime rates aren’t dependent on inflation.

Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said the video was prompted by Bowman’s repeated refusal over the past three years to meet with the union to discuss its concerns.

Currently, the WPS receives $295 million a year from the city’s $1.081-billion budget.

Sabourin said it’s common for "urgent" 911 calls to be placed on hold for long periods of time, sometimes as much as 18 minutes, adding the video is accurate and a not an exaggeration.

Callers to 911 are "hiding in their closet or they’re hiding in the basement because someone is breaking in," Sabourin said. "Is (the video) graphic? Yes. But does it bring attention to the problem with public safety in Winnipeg? I would say it does."

Smyth said the union video prompted police to review 911 logs, but they could not find any call that matched the one depicted in the video. "We were unable to find the call they were referencing."

The chief said there has been an increase in the volume of calls to 911 in 2018, but the number of calls resulting in police being dispatched has been lower than last year.

"If everyone called 911 for everything, it wouldn’t be a very effective system," Smyth said. "Some people just don’t either understand or appreciate what that system is for… an emergency.

"Whether that’s a medical emergency or fire or someone being harmed. Not a bicycle theft."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca