July 3, 2020

27° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press



Shields only part of Transit safety equation


Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/1/2019 (521 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s an example of city leaders placing safety first: Winnipeg Transit drivers may soon be protected by shields, as a measure against harassment and assaults. It’s a step in the right direction.

City council’s executive policy committee (EPC) last week approved a proposal that would use $3.1 million from the city’s 2019 capital budget to install the driver shields within a year.

SUPPLIED</p><p>EPC endorsed a plan to install bus shields within a year.</p>


EPC endorsed a plan to install bus shields within a year.

An earlier proposal from the public works committee outlined using some of Transit’s 2018 surplus to have shields installed over an 18-month period. The committee had heard from Transit director Greg Ewankiw, who suggested given the time to do installations, the work could take up to three years.

EPC’s unanimous vote to support the one-year timetable must now move to city council for approval. While its passage seems likely, the full council vote on shield installation is not expected at this week’s meeting. Mayor Brian Bowman said it would be premature to allow council to vote on the possibility of using Transit’s 2018 surplus to fund the shields, because the final amount of the surplus won’t be known until some time after the meeting.

It’s good to see action taken toward improving safety for bus drivers on the job, a concern brought sharply into focus with the death of Irvine Jubal Fraser in 2017. Fraser’s death at the hands of a passenger on a bus he was driving highlighted the need for better security.

As part of the case against the person accused in the resulting trial, video relating to the incident was submitted in court. Video surveillance cameras were installed in Transit buses beginning in 1996, with Transit equipping all new buses with audio/video surveillance beginning in 2008.

No static measure of security is enough to guarantee a person’s safety in a job where they must interact, and sometimes enforce rules, with people on a daily basis. The cameras are meant as a security measure, but the evidence they captured in Fraser’s case is cold comfort to his loved ones.

The shields to be installed will protect the drivers while they are driving, but not when they leave the driver’s seat to deal with a passenger, as Fraser did. Nor will shields and cameras protect other passengers from an altercation. As emergency workers at hospitals have seen, a spike in meth use has increased the potential for violent altercations. The same risk could be posed to Transit drivers and passengers.

Having Transit supervisors on board who are trained in verbal de-escalation techniques could work in many situations. But in an unpredictable altercation, the shift from verbal negotiation to potentially needing to physically restrain a person can be rapid. That’s a whole other level of training — and authority.

What, then, would be an active measure of security aboard buses?

The question of whether a police presence on buses is feasible is worth considering, and having more officers using Transit while on duty could provide a measure of security. But it may not be enough.

City council should continue to look at improving security for bus drivers and commuters. Taking action on the shields is a good step. However, the problem is larger than protecting a driver while driving. The safety of all on board the bus requires a more comprehensive solution.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.