EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

“PROFOUNDLY UNIMPRESSED” JUDGE NEEDS REALITY CHECK

3D Judges Gavel

The world of criminal justice just took another weird turn.

The Winnipeg Police Service came under fire Tuesday when defense attorney Chris Sigurdson levelled accusations the Police deliberately ignore arrest warrants issued for incarcerated offenders to maximize the time they spend behind bars.

Crime reporter James Turner exposed the “scandal” in an article published in today’s edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. (Police Tactic Earns Judge’s Ire)

“They’re deliberately doing it, it’s cruel,” Sigurdson said.  “It’s not uncommon.  It happens a lot,” he added.

Sigurdson’s client, Justin Shorting (21), was sentenced in November 2012 to two (2) years in Federal Prison for Break & Enter.  Shortly after his sentencing Police obtained a warrant to obtain his DNA in connection with another Break & Enter offence that occurred in May of 2012.

Turner indicates the Police, “took the time” to attend Stoney Mountain Penitentiary shortly after the warrant was issued to obtain a DNA sample for comparison purposes.

On April 10, 2013, Police obtained DNA results from the RCMP that implicated Shorting in the May 2012 Break & Enter.

On April 16, 2013, an arrest warrant was issued for Shorting in connection with the investigation.

Turner notes the arrest warrant was not executed until February 28, 2014, apparently an hour or so after Shorting had been released from prison.

Provincial Court Judge Tim Killeen indicated he was, “profoundly unimpressed,” with how Police handled the situation and hoped his view was made clear to them.  “I’ve seen this over and over and over again,” he said. “I don’t know what makes it so difficult for them to get to the institution and arrest the person,” said Killeen.

Turner indicates Killeen finds it difficult to believe Police simply don’t have the time to execute their arrest warrants in a timely way.

(I think Judge Killeen knows the City of Winnipeg is an undisputed Nation leader when it comes to Homicide, Violent Crime and several other crime categories.)

The angle in the story suggests the Police are deliberately manipulating the system to keep offenders locked up longer.  A prospect Killeen finds, “much more troubling.”

“Troubling?”

In May of 2011, Winnipeg Police Association President Mike Sutherland wrote an article published in the Winnipeg Sun indicating up to 15,000 arrest warrants were being held by the Winnipeg Police Service with ten (10) to fifteen (15) arrest warrants added every day.  Sutherland also indicated that hundreds, if not thousands, of older arrest warrants were being purged from the system because they were stale dated.

Police sources tell me that number is closer to 20,000 entries which translate to over 30,000 actual arrest warrants.

In September of 2011, the WPS created the Manitoba Integrated Warrant Apprehension Unit.  The Unit consists of three (3) WPS Officers and three (3) RCMP Officers whose primary function is to apprehend violent or high priority offenders wanted on outstanding warrants.

On January 28, 2013, the Unit was celebrated in a Winnipeg Free Press story after they made their 1,000th arrest.

Police estimated approximately 70% of the arrests were for violent offenders who were eluding capture.

In 2006, I took a position as Sergeant in charge of the District 6 Crime Unit.  One of my primary job functions was to prioritize and direct criminal investigations.  Shortly after assuming those responsibilities I found that investigators were overburdened with more than one hundred (100) unresolved files that required an arrest or a high likelihood of arrest.  An equal number of files existed that required some form of investigative effort before they could be concluded.  Each and every file represented a citizen of the City of Winnipeg who had been victimized by some sort of crime.

Much like a triage nurse working in a Hospital emergency department, investigators must review, assess and prioritize their work.  That reality should come as no surprise to Judge Killeen or James Turner.

Police generally prioritize criminal investigations as follows;

  • Violent Crime – Murder, Attempt Murder, Sexual & Serious Assaults
  • Robbery – Commercial: Banks, Business / Strong Arm
  • High Profile Crime – Organized Crime, Gang Crime, Home Invasion
  • Property Crime – Commercial & Residential B&E, Fraud, Theft

Criminal Offenders also receive a priority;

  • Serial Offenders – active or at large
  • Suspects – active or at large
  • Suspects – incarcerated

I ask you, if you’re a Detective working thirty (30) active criminal investigations with suspects at large doing break & enters, how much priority would you place on executing an arrest warrant for a criminal who is locked up in a Federal Penitentiary?

I know what direction I’d give to Detectives working under my command.  The simple fact is, incarcerated offenders present zero risk to public safety.   

It’s no game as Sigurdson, Killeen and Turner suggest.

It’s a reality of Policing with extremely limited resources.

Here are some other realities;

  • In the two (2) years I supervised the D6 Crime Unit Detectives under my command made almost four-hundred (400) criminal code arrests.  Some of these arrests involved lengthy, complex, time consuming criminal investigations.  Manpower, overtime and resources were also significant issues.
  • Property offences and offenders have been treated extremely lightly by the Courts.  If property crime is such a low priority for the judiciary then why should there be an expectation the Police would treat it as a high priority?
  • Judges frequently sentence offenders to time served for crimes that are connected to a string of offences that occurred before the offender was incarcerated.  In many cases, charges connected to outstanding warrants for incarcerated offenders could be handled with no Police involvement.
  • There are approximately ten (10) prisons or jails throughout the Province of Manitoba which are located in; Stony Mountain, Brandon, Portage, Dauphin, Headingley, Milner Ridge, The Pas, Winnipeg Remand Center, Manitoba Youth Center, Agassiz.
  • Prisons do not notify the WPS of prisoner status or movement.  As a result, Police do not normally monitor incarcerated offenders status or locations.
  • Shorting caught a sentence of two (2) years in prison for a property offence.  I expect he must have an extremely lengthy criminal record to be sent to a Federal Penitentiary for a property offence.  Therefore, I question why anyone should be sympathetic to his cause.
  • Judge Killeen is an experienced former criminal defense attorney who was appointed to the Provincial Court on July 23, 2012.  As a recent appointee he should be fully aware of issues regarding limited Police resources and file prioritization.  His attack on the Police and sympathetic voice for the offender is all to familiar to those of us who work or have worked in Law Enforcement.
  • Defense Attorney Chris Sigurdson had every opportunity to make enquiries regarding his clients status long before he was ever released from prison and re-arrested.  Did he not have a professional responsibility to represent his clients interests and make sure he had no outstanding arrest warrants before his release.  The entire situation could had been avoided if Sigurdson had picked up the telephone on his client’s behalf.
  • Doesn’t Shorting bear some responsibility in all of this?  Why didn’t he make his own enquiries regarding the outstanding arrest warrant?  Was he too busy playing cards or watching TV inside the prison to make a few phone calls?  During interrogations I used to tell offenders, “Shit has a way of catching up to you.” It was a tactic I used to try to get them to confess to their outstanding crimes.  Well Mr Shorting you didn’t unpack your suitcase when the Police initially arrested you and shit caught up to you, to bad, so sad.

It seems to me Turner’s story fails to provide any balance and takes a decidedly sympathetic angle in favour of the offender.  Why else would he tell us Shorting has cognitive challenges?  Why else would he tell us that according to Sigurdson, “his re-arrest after a fleeting taste of freedom left him confused and very disappointed?”  While Shorting’s cognitive challenges and disappointments are sure to evoke sympathy from some readers, I’m afraid I wasn’t moved.

I doubt Shorting was confused or disappointed when he broke into the property owners home in May of 2012 and stole $700 worth of their valuables.

Ultimately, Justin Shorting made a lifestyle choice that should come with consequences.

I hope I’m not too cruel for saying so.

INSIDER COMMENTARY:

While I don’t believe this “issue” is as widespread as Judge Killeen suggests, a quick fix would be to create an Incarcerated Offenders Warrant Unit.

The primary function of the Unit would be to track the warrant status of any incarcerated offender in the Province of Manitoba and to ensure any and all outstanding arrest warrants are promptly executed.

The Unit could be run by one or two civilian members of the Police Service.

The big question is, who’s going to pay for it?

RELATED LINK:

Winnipeg Free Press – “Police Tactics Earns Judges Ire”

21 Comments

  1. I worked in Corrections for 17 years. The term is called “gating” …sit on a warrant till just before release then re-arrest as soon as the offender walks out the front door. Keeps them off the street longer.

  2. Good point.

    Most of these arrest warrants should be dealt with as “no process,” which means the paper moves and not the offender.

    There really is no need for Police involvement unless the warrants are “first instance,” meaning the offender has never been charged with an offence in connection to the warrant. In those cases Police are required to fingerprint and process the subject of the warrant.

    Any “Peace Officer” is capable of executing arrest warrants.

    Maybe the time has come to elicit the services of the Sheriffs Officers, Corrections or Commissionaires.

    Just a thought…..thank you for commenting.

  3. If you want to talk about penny wise and pound foolish, how much sense does it make to send WPS Officers out to the Stony Mountain Pen, or Brandon, Portage, HCI or Milner Ridge to execute arrest warrants on inmates?

    (Dauphin & The Pas are obviously out of the question)

    Now you’re talking about writing off an entire day for a two man unit, wages, gas but more importantly, sacrificed patrol time.

    Penny wise and pound foolish you suggest?

    Access to inmates is another issue I didn’t raise in the story.

    It takes a significant amount of coordination to arrest an in custody prisoner. Firstly, the window of opportunity is narrow due to meal times, court appearances, lawyer visits, gym time, visitor time and many other distractions that often arise.

    The responsibility for executing arrest warrants generally lies with the Division or Unit that initiated warrant. A great number of arrest warrants are also generated by the Courts. The Police generally have no involvement or knowledge of these matters.

    The scenario you suggest with Officers executing multiple warrants per visit just doesn’t mesh with the way Police Operations currently work.

    Your suggestion that less resources are required to arrest someone in jail is also not the current reality. A two officer patrol unit is required in either scenario and as I already pointed out, arrests in jail are time consuming, cumbersome and more costly.

    The reality is, Police Officers are not camping out at the jails waiting for inmates with warrants to get released as the story suggests.

    I think the “issue” raised in the story was significantly overblown.

    Thank you for commenting.

  4. You raise several valid points.

    One of the reasons I wrote the article was to confront what I considered to be a very narrow, one sided presentation of a story that paints an ugly picture of the Police.

    I truly question the scope of the “issue” and doubt that it merited the coverage it’s received.

    In any event, there is a quick fix available if the Political will exists to do something about it….

    Time will tell….

  5. Your sentiments are widely shared….

    Thank you for commenting….

  6. I’m not sure but you do raise a good point..…

    A great many warrants for property related offences only have a radius of the City of Winnipeg…

    The WPS would not likely be interested in extending the radius of these types of warrants.

    Once the offenders return back to the City it’s open season.

    Thanks for commenting…

  7. It takes WAY more time to execute and process someone already in custody unfortunately. The process is far from streamlined and there is no effort within the system to assist police in dealing with these warrants. At remand I’ve been faced with situations where you actually have to get an entry warrant as it’s technically considered the offenders residence. Stony and Headingley? Well you have to get there first. Why would police rush to do that when theyre supposed to be dealing with those (with warrants and otherwise ) that are an acute threat to public safety that are still on the street? With all due respect to Judge Killeen and the offenders for that matter, but police have finite resources and cannot base their operations with offender convenience as a sole factor.
    The situation is analogous to a trauma surgeon pausing work on someone with a life threatening arterial bleed to go reset someone else’s shoulder. It doesn’t make sense.

  8. They would only be “innocent” of charges if they were remanded into custody and denied bail. (Pre-trial custody)

    The others are serving sentences because they have been found guilty.

    The “actual” way it is done ie. re-arrest and bail hearings et al is a huge waste of resources, just because it is what has been done, doesn’t mean it is right.

    Corrections Officers and Sheriffs Officers are Peace Officers. It wouldn’t be a stretch to have that whole process done without even involving the police.

  9. Just because someone is in custody, does not make him guilty. After he is arrested, he still has to be advised of his rights, questioned regarding said offence(s). The report has to be written, read and approved. Appointments are then made to have him fingerprinted and photographed and then taken to the Arrest Processing Unit, where he is entitled to a Bail Hearing before a Judicial Justice on the warrant charges, which does not mean he will be denied bail on the warrant charges just because he is in jail on other charges. It has happened. After that, he goes through the justice system again on the warrant charges, separate from the charges he was originally in custody on. There is no short changing the system. After all, the lawyers and Judges have to do something to justify the obscene wages and Legal Aid fees they collect.

  10. Surely it takes fewer police resources to execute a warrant for someone in custody than it does to execute that same warrant once the individual has returned to the community and needs to be found? Police could serve multiple warrants per visit at correctional institutions. It seems WAY more efficient to do it that way. Plus, there is no risk they will lose track of a potentially dangerous criminal upon release.

    So, while I agree with your suggestion for an Incarcerated Offenders Warrant Unit, I really don’t understand your argument regarding scarce police resources. It seems penny-wise and pound-foolish.

  11. When judges like Killeen make these types of statements, it really highlights the state of our “justice system”. For a judge to openly state that he is more concerned about the “rights” of a repeat offender than that of the public, it’s troubling for several reasons.
    1. I’m sure there are plenty of justice officials who share Killeen’s pro-offender/anti-victim stance.
    2. The suggestion that police are acting immorally and in contrast to the “proper” method of executing arrest warrants. This accusation casts an unsubstantiated shadow of suspicion and untrustworthiness on police.
    3. Killeen is placing the sole responsibility of ascertaining any outstanding charges/warrants squarely on the police service. This is in keeping with bleeding heart judges who perpetuate the lack of accountability of the offender.
    4. Killeen, not unlike the members of the criminal code review board, feel that innocent, tax-paying members of society must bear the risks of living amongst repeat offenders. Killeen has sided with the criminals rather than the police and the citizens.

    Until our province/country decides judges need to be accountable to society, we will continue to see the rights of the offender out-weigh that of the victims. Appointing judges to the bench is an antiquated practice that must be retired. Criminals and the types of crimes being committed are evolving at a much higher rate than the justice system. We need change. As a society, we need to demand that our justice system caters to the innocent masses and work in tandem with police.

  12. Interesting comment from the CO. I am sure he’s aware that most people in correctional facilities are innocent, they just had bad lawyers. Perhaps if Tim Killeen or his colleagues were representing them they wouldn’t be locked up?

    Sarcasm aside, this is an interesting issue, as I can’t for the life of me understand why it’s the sole job of the police to attend a jail to re-arrest” an offender, bringing him or her out, processing on said warrant and then taking them back? Seems completely ridiculous to me.

    As mentioned before, Killeen and his ilk are WELL aware the sheer number of warrants in existence (just in Winnipeg alone) and that for police officers to do this is hardly a good use of resources.

    I’d prefer there be police officers doing their jobs and locking MORE people up than going to a jail and processing someone who poses no risk to public safety because THEY ARE ALREADY IN JAIL!

    I suppose it’s easy for people like Killeen to sit around at his white wine lunch meetings with his bleeding heart bosom buddies and find new ways to get his name in the paper whilst demonizing people that actually work for a living. I understand it can’t be easy driving to his mansion and back to his precious bench at the law courts every day, what a horrible life he must have!

  13. What was the radius on the warrant? If it was City of Winnipeg only, and SHORTING was sitting in Stoney, I’m not surprised that it wasn’t executed.

  14. Nice to hear from someone who lives in the “real” world.

    Thanks for dropping a comment on the story. Meshes nicely with my point that maybe these dip shits might take some responsibility for themselves…..

    I have great respect for prison guards….very tough job!

  15. So true….thanks for commenting!

  16. As a correctional officer I see this all the time. Actually seen it just this last week. Also why I can’t give my real name.

    Great article.

    I would also put a higher priority on serving arrest warrants to offenders who are currently at large and at risk to offend again and possibly make a victim out of someone else over someone who is currently incarcerated and of no risk to the public we are there to serve and protect. If the individual who is currently incarcerated thinks he/she can sit there and wait till their sentence expires, get released and have the hopes that maybe they won’t get arrested for the other crimes they committed only to find out RCMP members are there waiting for them, “too bad so sad.” If they want their crimes dealt with in a timely fashion maybe they can start taking some responsibility for themselves and own up to the things they’ve done. Inmates are often far too busy to handle their issues, which are many, while they’re incarcerated. Playing cards, board games, doing arts and crafts, reading, sleeping in and taking naps, watching cable TV, working out in the gym, playing games on computers, sitting out in the yard getting fresh air, eating three meals a day, getting coffee and snack served to them twice a day or maybe they happen to have an institutional job… one which serves the rest of those busy inmates in getting them clean clothes every day, clean sheets and bedding twice a week and cleaning up after them. Life is so rough for those inmates.

    Zero f**’s given.

    Find me an incarcerated individual that takes some responsibility for their own actions and wants to take control of their life, make the changes required to be a positive influence to the people around them and in their community and I’ll give you more f***’s then you’ll know what to do with. Unfortunately they’re few and far between.

  17. And suffice it to say, the silent majority is “profoundly unimpressed” with unelected, unaccountable, politically appointed judges who obviously bring their defense lawyer biases with them while presiding over cases that they normally would have been representing the accused only what? A couple years ago?

  18. Last I heard her Majesty the Queen really wasn’t all that involved with running things in Canadian Criminal Justice…

    You comment shows a profound lack of understanding for the demands placed on the WPS in the modern era.

    Warrants also say, “To any and all Peace Officers.” Maybe it’s time for Peace Officers, other than Police Officers to pick up the slack.

    Thank you for commenting…

  19. Arrest Warrants as not issued for fun. It is a command from her Majesty the Queen, and they start out “this is therefore to command you” What part of this are they missing?? It does not say when you have time, or when you feel like it, or when it is convenient for you.

    You know what…. sometimes you get your best information from these guys you arrest from prison, they make good informants, admit to other offences etc. etc. Get up off your ass and do your job. How freakin hard is it to arrest a guy from jail.

  20. Couldn’t agree more….

    Thanks for commenting…

  21. Hi James,

    I read the Free Press article and comments before I read yours. I find the people who leave comments on that website have no idea how the justice system works with accused people pleading guilty to numerous charges and getting concurrent sentences instead of consecutive sentence which they should get. The crimes weren’t committed concurrently. If Justin Shorting didn’t want police arresting him after his release, he could have advised the court of all his crimes and been sentenced to everything instead of hoping he got away with the B&E he finally got charged with. Bleeding heart defense judges(former lawyers) should refrain from comments like Killeen made.

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