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Academia, Intellectual Intercourse & Reality – One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Methodology (Report Screenshot)
Methodology (Report Screenshot)

The headlines read, “WPS over staffed and inefficient!”

That’s the conclusion reached by the Fraser Institute who just published a sixty-four (64) page study titled, “Police and Crime Rates in Canada – A Comparison of Resources and Outcomes.”  The report was authored by Livio Di Matteo, a Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Di Matteo concluded the Winnipeg Police Service is one of the most over staffed and inefficient Police Organizations in the Country.

The Purpose of the Study;

The study purports to explore the growing concern in Canada over increasing Policing costs given that crime rates have fallen dramatically in recent years.

The author identifies public concern regarding the rising cost and sustainability of Police Services given that crime rates continue to decline, Police salaries rise, and arbitrators often settle Police contracts without taking a municipality’s ability to pay into account.

The Numbers;

  • Between 2001 – 2012 Police Officers per 100,000 of population in Canada rose 8.7% while the crime rate declined 26.3%.
  • Per capita Police expenditures in Canada between 1986 – 2012 rose 45.5% while criminal code incidents per Officer declined 36.8%.
  • Manitoba has the highest number of Police Officers per 100,000 population at 213 while Prince Edward Island has the lowest at 160.

Methodology;

Di Matteo’s report uses complex formulas to find the actual and predicted numbers of Police Officers per 100,000 populations.  He indicates he employed a min-max methodology to rank the differences between predicted and actual to obtain an efficiency ranking.

The result;

Winnipeg was identified as having, “the least efficient staffing levels with their actual numbers well above what the regression model predicted.”

The findings;

Comparison of actual and predicted number of Police Officers per 100,000 population;

Winnipeg Actual – 187 / Predicted – 145

 The Reality;

Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis went on live radio with Charles Adler (CJOB) to discuss the report.

“I’m not here to throw any type of water on that research, I believe absolutely in research, I say it’s important to assess what we’re doing, if academia look at it and if what we’re doing can’t stand up to that type of rigorous scrutiny then by all means we need to change what we’re doing.  But again you have to compare individually the dynamics of each City before you can simply say from afar, this is what’s required,” Clunis said in his normal diplomatic style.

I’ll be less diplomatic.

Di Matteo’s report relies heavily on crime rate data.

Crime rate data studied by academics in the sterile confines of Universities fail to provide much in the way of insight into the unique dynamics of crime experienced by a metropolitan center like the City of Winnipeg.

Ironically, much of the report’s data was taken during a twenty-six (26) year snap shot that happens to run congruent with my career in Law Enforcement.  I witnessed radical changes in the dynamics of crime and the evolution of Policing and Justice during this time frame.

For example;

The emergence of street gangs in the City of Winnipeg was a game changer that may not have had a significant impact on the crime rate but certainly had an impact on the need for boots on the ground and an increased Police response.

That impact was especially felt in the Homicide Unit.

  • Between 2000 – 2005, the WPS Homicide Unit experienced a total of nine (9) unsolved homicides.
  • Between 2006 – 2011, the WPS Homicide Unit experienced a total of twenty-five (25) unsolved homicides.

These figures represent an alarming 177% increase in unsolved homicides.  Unsolved homicide cases are labour intensive undertakings that require significant resources, dedication and overtime to resolve.  The evolution of Organized Crime and Street Gangs have made significant contributions to these findings.

The WPS Homicide Unit has not had an annual 100% solvency rate since 2004.

Do any of these realities impact the crime rate?

Recent Statistics Canada reports indicate the City of Winnipeg leads the Country in a number of unenviable crime categories;

  • Violent Crime
  • Homicide
  • Robbery
  • Youth Crime

Manitoba remains the Provincial murder capital of Canada by a significant margin and has held the title for seven (7) consecutive years.

The City of Winnipeg has challenges that are unique to many of the urban centres included in the study.  Our demographics are different, our socioeconomic conditions are different and our criminal landscape is different.

How many other Police jurisdictions have issues with;

  • Street Gangs & Child Soldiers
  • Witness Protection & Management
  • Nation leading Homicide Statistics
  • Nation leading Robbery & Violent Crime
  • Nation leading Youth Crime

The evolution of complex crime and technology has placed a tremendous obligation on Law Enforcement to adapt and evolve.  That evolution required the addition of highly skilled investigative personnel while still maintaining front line services to respond to emergency situations.

The evolution of crime and increased administrative obligations places an onerous burden on Law Enforcement.  Those burdens forced the Police Service to innovate and create specialty Units to meet these demands.  

Specialty Units that include, but are not limited too;

  • Forensic Imaging – to deal with crime scene video
  • Police Affiants – to write complex warrant applications
  • Police Analysts – to analyze complex crime
  • Tech Crimes – to retrieve evidence from computers, cell phones and cameras
  • Sex Crimes – to investigate internet luring, child exploitation
  • Project Devote – to investigate missing & murdered Aboriginal Women
  • Cold Case Unit – to investigate unsolved murders
  • Disclosure Unit – to address obligations created by the Courts

None of these resource challenges are reflected in crime rates.

The 2013 WPS Annual report indicates the Police Service employs 1,507 sworn Police Officers.

The City of Winnipeg Census metropolitan area (CMA) is reported as 781,800.

Di Matteo’s report indicates the WPS has 187 Police Officers per 100,000 population.  According to the report the WPS is over staffed and inefficient based on their methodology which suggests the WPS should have 145 Police Officers per 100,000 population.

*Let’s do the math;

8 x 187 = 1,496 – number of actual WPS Officers suggested in report

8 x 145 = 1,160 – number of “predicted” WPS Officers suggested in report

1,496 – 1,160 = 336 – number of “over staffed” WPS Officers

*assuming a population of 800,000 for simplicity purposes

According to Di Matteo’s report the WPS is over staffed by approximately 336 Police Officers or 22.5 %.

The 2013 WPS Annual report also indicates calls for Police Service are continuing to trend upwards;

CALLS FOR SERVICE (2013 WPS ANNUAL REPORT)
Calls for Service (2013 WPS ANNUAL REPORT)

The increasing calls for Police Service are not reflected in the crime rate.

Nonetheless, according to Chief Clunis current WPS staffing levels are appropriate.

The Winnipeg Police Service has recently been scrutinized by two of the most in-depth reviews ever conducted on their operations.  Both reviews found the WPS was being operated in an efficient manner.  (Matrix Review / CPA Review)

In 2010, the WPS Homicide Unit was subjected to one of the most intensive operational reviews ever conducted on its operations.  The review found the Unit was overworked and understaffed yet they secured a nation leading 90% solvency rate at approximately 50% of the cost of its comparators.

The Final Analysis;

Pardon me for throwing water on Di Matteo’s report but I have to ask, “What exactly is the point?”

Is Di Matteo suggesting we should be laying off Police Officers or initiating a hiring freeze to bring down the numbers through attrition?

Imagine a Doctor telling a patient they’re fat and not making any recommendation for a weight loss plan?  

Patient “I’m here for my annual check up.”

Doctor “Based on my external examination you’re fat and inefficient!”

Patient “Really, what can I do about it.”

Doctor “I just do external examinations, looking at causes and providing insightful recommendations are not part of my responsibility, next patient please.”

Does the study really have any practical value?

In my opinion, Di Matteo’s report was nothing more than a pointless exercise in intellectual intercourse that ended up costing me three hours of my life that I can never get back.

It’s a good thing we don’t have to rely on the intelligentsia to fight crime.

But the headlines read, “WPS over staffed and inefficient!”

That’s what most people will remember.

THE REPORT:

POLICE & CRIME RATES IN CANADA – by Livio Di Matteo

RELATED LINK:

WPS Chief Devon Clunis on CJOB with the boss of talk Charles Adler

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4 Comments

  1. You can take all the crime statistics in the world and when it comes to policing it will never be accurate. The modern day front line police officer spends more time dealing with non- criminal issues … for example: Mental health patients. Police spend hours sitting in hospitals acting as hospital security waiting for these individuals to be seen by doctors. Another example : Missing Persons. Police spend hours and hours looking for youths that leave there group home with no consequence and no one trying to stop them. Police get called to garbage on the roadway, neighbour’s that can’t get along and about anything else you can imagine. 1 in 5 calls might be criminal in nature. There’s many factors that can never be accounted for. And anyone who thinks that crime is declining, your wrong… sadly people aren’t reporting it. Say what you want but the world can always use more police and maybe when crime is zero then start scaling it back.

  2. The Fraser institute has be discredited by the IMF and The World Bank and has been a long time supporter of the Tobacco industry lobby. Real question is why are people in the press even reporting their propoganda.

  3. Appreciate your input.

    Thank you for commenting.

  4. The problem (or benifit depending on how you look at it) with stats is you can prove or disprove anything you want. You just need to know what numbers to plug into the equation! I could easily take the same information used in this study and come to the opposite conclusion, that WPS is efficient considering how short staffed they are! Does this study even take into account other legislation or duties WPS is resposible for? What about enforcing highway traffic act offences, Intoxicated persons detention act, disturbances, noise complaints, etc, etc….
    I don’t put alot of merit into a study that comes off so one sided.

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