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This article was published 27/2/2019 (635 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Police and fire officials called a joint press conference Wednesday to put out a social media fire started by the head of the Winnipeg firefighters union, who claims firefighters are being sent to deal with dangerous police matters.
United Firefighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest's inflammatory Facebook post Wednesday said members are being sent to emergency calls that are neither fire nor emergency medical issues, apparently because of a lack of available police.
He pointed to an example of a fire crew being sent to a hotel downtown where a patron was "refusing to leave the after having been kicked out." Police were called and it took two hours for the cadets to show up, the post said. When they got there, during a struggle with the drunken man in which firefighters "were required to help," the man produced a firearm "which he thankfully was prevented from discharging."
At police headquarters, fire and police deputy chiefs who reviewed the record of the incident gave a different account.
"These firefighters could well have been injured or killed in this incident, and it is clearly an incident that required police presence, not the presence of unarmed firefighters from the outset." –Alex Forrest's statement on Facebook
Winnipeg Police Service Deputy Chief Gord Perrier said 911 received a call on Feb. 16 about a man in the Maryland Hotel beverage room who was sleeping, or falling in and out of consciousness. The call was transferred to the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service that dispatched a crew. It determined the man was so drunk he was unable to care for himself, and called the police.
"The call was put into the queue for quite some time," Perrier said. Cadets showed up in two hours and took him into custody under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act. After he was handcuffed, he tried to remove something from his waistband. It turned out to be a handgun that the cadets seized, said Perrier.
"The gun was a very big surprise to everyone on scene," Perrier said, noting that 911 receives many calls for help dealing with intoxicated persons -- a "prevalent" problem in Winnipeg.
"That happens each and every day," he said. Calls to police are screened and the risk is assessed to determine their priority, said Perrier.
"At that time, that call did not fit the highest priority and we had other calls of a higher nature," said Perrier.
Right now, the number of such calls is a little above average for this time of year -- but there is not a lack of police resources, he said.
"The chief (Danny Smyth) has said many times, from an operations perspective, we have the resources we need to accomplish our mandates," said Perrier.
Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service crews have the power to assess danger and decide whether to engage with someone, said Christian Schmidt, WFPS deputy chief of operations and communications.
"All of our crews are fully aware that they are able to do self staging," Schmidt said. "Based on dispatch information they can make a decision to self stage or to not engage with that patient and request the assistance of the police service," he said.
"We're doing as much as we can to make sure that our people on the front lines have all the information that they need to remain safe." –Christian Schmidt, WFPS deputy chief of operations and communications.
And, with a new "automated priority dispatch system" put in place Tuesday, they're getting better information, he said.
"The system assists all call takers and prompts them on questions to ask the caller and to record responses by callers," said Schmidt. "Those responses, that information, is then pushed out electronically to automated dispatch computers in all of our apparatus so that our responding personnel receive all of that information in almost real time," said Schmidt.
"We're doing as much as we can to make sure that our people on the front lines have all the information that they need to remain safe."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.