Review puts police under knife [Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)]
(Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Proposed cuts to WPS operations deeper after feedback, source says
An operational review of the Winnipeg Police Service recommends major cuts, including disbanding the vice squad and the cold-case unit that digs into unsolved homicides.
The Free Press has learned a draft of the final report from Matrix Consulting Groups Ltd., expected to be presented to Mayor Sam Katz and his executive committee next month, also proposes reducing the size of the stolen-auto unit and closing the clandestine-laboratory unit and contracting the work out to the RCMP's lab.
In a clear sign of the politics surrounding the cost of policing, a source said the depth of the cuts has deepened after Matrix's initial drafts got feedback from city councillors and senior administrators.
"It's obvious that the changes were made to fulfil the expectations of those individuals who had ordered the review," the source said.
The accuracy of this information was confirmed by Coun. Russ Wyatt, who identified senior police executives as its source, adding they are motivated by self-interest.
However, Coun. Scott Fielding, chairman of the new Winnipeg Police Board, said there has been only one draft of the Matrix report presented to a steering committee, and steering committee members have not seen any subsequent versions or a final report.
Fielding, a strong advocate on council for the operational review, said a preliminary version was presented to a steering committee consisting of himself, Wyatt, who is chairman of the finance committee, two senior members of the audit department, police Chief Devon Clunis, and deputy police chief Art Stannard.
Fielding said the final report hasn't been completed, but added it's standard practice in operational reviews for a preliminary version to be circulated among a small number of people to ensure there are no factual errors and for feedback.
He said he would not confirm operational cuts were added to the Matrix report after the steering committee saw the first draft. He said he would not comment on any portion of the report until it's made public.
Wyatt said there's a culture in parts of the Winnipeg Police Service that resists change and the need to find efficiencies and savings.
"This cultural thinking may go all the way to the top and will do anything to protect the empire they have created," Wyatt said. "The very fact that documents were leaked to (the Free Press), that only the senior members of the WPS would have had possession of, and then given a certain spin, is proof that unfortunately this culture inside the WPS, which resists change and believes it to be unaccountable, is alive and well."
Coun. Paula Havixbeck said she was shocked most of council has been excluded from reviewing the preliminary findings from Matrix.
Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) argued against the operational review, saying new police Chief Devon Clunis and the new police board should be given an opportunity to find efficiencies within the service,
"It's appalling that all city councillors do not have a copy (of the preliminary report) and it's appalling that no council seminar was called to go through what the findings were."
Havixbeck said it's not acceptable for Matrix to add cuts to the police department after getting feedback from a select group of individuals.
"There is no credibility left when things like this happen at city hall," Havixbeck said.
Clunis did not respond to an interview request on how the proposed cuts outlined in the draft Matrix report would affect the police service. A spokesman for the Winnipeg Police Association could not be reached for comment.
The source said Matrix's initial draft presented to the steering committee contained several recommendations for new police resources, such as improved training procedures and administrative changes to create standards and performance measures. But the source said the recommendations to enhance the service were dwarfed in subsequent versions by cuts to almost all segments of the police operation.
Fielding said Matrix had been providing the steering committee with regular updates on what they've been doing and the work that still needs to be done.
He said the operational review is being done to find cost-savings within the police service and he expects the final report will contain a host of such cuts.
"We put it out there to find cost savings and efficiencies," Fielding said. "At the end of the day, there will be a menu of options. There's going to be a whole bunch of recommendations.
"It's an open slate. Nothing is off the table. It doesn't necessarily mean we'll implement everything that is in the report, but we'll study it and make some changes to make it a more effective service."
Fielding said it will be up to the newly appointed Winnipeg Police Board to determine which cuts will be made.
"Is the operational review going to be a holy bible that we're going to follow? Probably not. We're going to take a look at it. We're going to evaluate it and see what makes sense."
He said Matrix interviewed some councillors, members of the WPS executive and police union and community stakeholders to determine where police savings could be found.
The city's operating budget
The amount city council has allocated to policing this year in Winnipeg
Number of officers employed by the Winnipeg Police Service
Number of civilian workers employed by the Winnipeg Police Service
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