EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

COUNCILLOR WYATT STICKS KNIFE IN POLICE CHIEFS BACK

IMG_3087
POLICE CHIEF DEVON CLUNIS (PHOTO JGJ)

Divide and conquer.

That appears to be the strategy being employed by City of Winnipeg Finance Chair Councillor Russ Wyatt who recently stuck a knife in the back of Police Chief Devon Clunis accusing the Police Executive of being responsible for leaking information regarding details contained in the Matrix Consulting Groups draft report.

Leaked information indicates the report proposes to disband the WPS Cold Case Unit and Vice Squad while reducing the size of the Stolen Auto Unit.

“There is clearly a culture within parts of the WPS, 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 in a statement.  “The very fact that documents were leaked to the media, 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,” Wyatt added.

Chief Clunis, justifiably miffed by the controversy, was compelled to hold a press conference to deny the allegations.  “Without any shadow of a doubt I can say that information did not come from any member of our executive ,” he said with conviction.

While I can’t say for certain where the leak came from, I wonder how Wyatt can be so confident the Police Service was responsible for the leak.  Information leaks frequently come from obscure, unpredictable sources with clandestine motivations.  Regardless, I question Wyatt’s decision to call out the Police Chief and entire Police Organization in such a public disparaging way.  Common sense and respect dictates that such battles are best not waged on the pages of print media.  You don’t have to read between the lines to get a sense of the contempt Wyatt seems to have for members of the Police Service.  People he categorized as Assange-esque information leakers, spin doctors and empire builders who belong to a regressive culture that’s resistant to change.  Terms of endearment these are not.

One thing is certain, these types of bold, unsubstantiated accusations do nothing to advance the conversation and will surely breed hostility and contempt within the Police Service.

Wyatt’s venomous response to the leak is understandable considering the fact he supported the $174,000 review and has a large stake in the outcome.  (He also signed off on the 3.87 % property tax increase and the controversial addition of $40,000 that was added to City Councillors office budgets.)

The expenditure for the review was questioned by City Councillor Paula Havixbeck and WPA President Mike Sutherland who suggested the newly appointed Police Chief should have been given an opportunity to initiate his own operational effectiveness review.

Insiders tell me Wyatt’s cultural characterizations of the Police Service could not be more off the mark.  In reality, Clunis is not only trying to change the culture of a crime ridden community, he’s already made significant changes in the culture in the Police Organization.  Once tightly controlled decision-making authority has been restored down the chain of command to the delight of members of the Police Executive who relish the opportunity to have a positive impact on the Organization.  Increased decision-making authority translates to increased accountability and higher expectations regarding operational effectiveness and the bottom line.

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dan Lett hit the nail on the head in his analysis of the controversy, “The need for an outside operational review has never been properly articulated.  Clunis revealed recently the WPS is planning a new coordinated “community health” strategy to streamline police responsibilities while ensuring better overall service. Launching an outside review while police are engaged in what appears to be a major re-organization of front-line duties is a poor bit of planning on the city’s part.

When the Matrix review was announced, I questioned the logic of having an American based consulting group, with no experience reviewing Canadian based Policing Operations, conduct an operational review of a Canadian based Police Agency, especially one tasked to deal with Nation leading crime in multiple crime categories. (Homicide, Robbery, Arson and Stolen Autos among others.)  You don’t have to be a Law Enforcement professional to know significant differences exist between the Canadian & American crime experience.  The demographics & complexities of the criminal landscape in Winnipeg, which include gang and organized crime, make our City unique on many levels.

As a middle manager with the WPS for several years, I have little doubt that cost saving initiatives for Police Operations can and should be found.  The real question is, should those cost savings come by eliminating or reducing the size of crime fighting units at the suggestion of a consulting group with no practical experience reviewing Canadian Police Operations?

The reality is, a significant contributor to rising Policing costs comes as a direct result of the increasing demands Canadian Justice places on Law Enforcement.  Those demands could be drastically reduced by initiatives that could include:

  • Justice reform – putting a stop to the revolving doors of justice
  • Court reform – elimination of redundant preliminary hearings to dramatically cut Police Overtime and Court costs
  • Enhanced Crown / Defense pre-trial agreement designed to eliminate unnecessary Police Officer court attendance
  • Enhanced access to Proceeds of Crime revenue
  • Cost Recovery initiatives or user fees
  • Collaborative approaches with social services
  • Enhanced mental health services to reduce obligations on front line Policing
  • Implementation of CACP recommendations to support Law Enforcement
  • Enhancements of the Cadet Program

It occurs to me that Councillor Wyatt might want to pick up a copy of “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” before he opens his big mouth again.

Leak or no leak, a professional, determined, collaborative approach is required to address the increasing costs of Policing the City of Winnipeg.

Name calling and denigrating Police Management will never get us where we need to go.

I look forward to reading the final report.

RELATED LINK:

THE POWER OF WORDS – “The Matrix Revolution, City Hall Drops the Ball

Winnipeg Free Press – Dan Lett “Let’s Shoot for Biggest Bang From Policing Bucks”

6 Comments

  1. Better late than never….

    Especially when the comments are bang on….

    Thanks for weighing in…

  2. Little late to the part with this one but to add my two cents…..

    This loud mouthed schnook can’t be trusted to budget my kid’s piggy bank. City Council can’t get their own affairs in order and the mouth from the East is the epitome of “pot meet kettle”

    Are there inefficiencies within the WPS? Yes. Can the WPS spend money and allocate resources better? Absolutely.

    But Russ Wyatt is certainly not the one who the WPS should be listening to about fiscal responsibility.

    I’d tell him to not quit his day job, but I am not sure what that even is.

  3. Great comments….thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I find this entire incident kinda funny.

    First, the city pays to have this audit done by an American firm that really has no idea about the Canadian justice system and the dynamics involved in policing a Canadian city. All I can remember hearing over the last 10 years from politicians is that we need more police to make our crime ridden city safer, and now they want to make cuts?? I don’t get it….this seems to be about more than money to me.

    Second, we have Russ Wyatt the councilor for union strong Transcona basically calling out police senior management. Why a councillor would pick a fight with the police that is essentially un-winnable is beyond me. I guess old Russ doesn’t believe in the old analogy “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

    Russ says he has proof of where the ” leak” came from. Let’s see it Russ, because the chief of Police called you a liar….are you?

  5. If only the people with the power to make change could have your clarity…

    Thanks for commenting.

  6. Poor planning on the part of the City? Say it isn’t so!

    And I couldn’t agree with you more on the need for collaborative approaches in addressing the criminal justice, social service, and mental health needs of Winnipeg and Manitoban citizens. We have complex problems that require multi-faceted approaches in our efforts to improve our society.

Share your thoughts - we value your opinion!