The philosophical changes occurring in the Winnipeg Police Service are not limited to the “Crime prevention through social development,” mantra trumpeted by Police Chief Devon Clunis.
It also seems a new culture of communication has been born.
Not only has the WPS recently entered into the world of social media by launching a Twitter account, currently with 4,634 followers, they’ve also taken the unprecedented step of providing literary licence to some senior members of the Service.
The first evidence of the departure from the rigid control of communication came in the form of a Winnipeg Free Press opinion editorial article called “Will Aboriginal Leadership Lead the Fight Against Gangs,” authored by Community Relations Unit Staff Sergeant Andy Golebioski.
It was an astonishing piece that essentially challenged Aboriginal Leaders to play a more prominent role in the fight to suppress the numbers of Aboriginal youth who join criminal street gangs. The article was shared one-hundred (100) times on Facebook and fifty-nine (59) times on Twitter. Comments were mostly positive and supportive.
The most recent evidence came in the way of an emotionally charged article published by the Winnipeg Free Press on December 7th called, “A knock at the Door Changes Everything.” The story was written by WPS Community Support Unit Inspector Scott Halley.
The article tackles the controversial subject of traffic enforcement by telling a story Police Officers rarely tell. A non-fiction account of the heart-break and pain that comes from making a death notification to the family of a victim claimed by a fatal traffic accident. Last year, Police Officers in Manitoba made a total of one hundred and seventy-two (172) such notifications. In writing the story it’s clear Halley is trying to remind people of the consequences that come with speed, alcohol and distracted driving. His message was clear, traffic enforcement is about saving lives, not generating revenue or achieving ticket quotas. While some readers remained skeptical, most demonstrated support.
Halley’s article was shared four thousand two-hundred and forty-four (4,244) times on Facebook and one-hundred and thirty-four (134) times on Twitter.
The new culture of communication hasn’t been limited to print media.
In 2013, two (2) serving Winnipeg Police Officer’s published books.
In July, Patrol Sergeant Ron Bilton released his book, “One Piece of a Life,” a difficult journey through an emotional mine field exploring the impacts of sexual abuse Bilton experienced as a child. In sharing his story, Bilton hopes to inspire victims of childhood sexual abuse to put the pieces of their lives back together and find a path to healing.
In September, Staff Sergeant Robert Chrismas launched his book, “Canadian Policing in the 21st Century,” a wide scoping cerebral account of the evolution of Policing in the violent crime and murder capital of Canada. The book received positive reviews and is considered a “must read” by a variety of educators.
On October 27, 2013, I was reading the weekend edition of the Winnipeg Free Press when I happened upon an article written by former WPS Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias titled, “Who will be the Next City Hall Mini Me.” The article offered pointed commentary regarding the ugly state of affairs at City Hall in the wake of the Fire Station fiasco. In the very same edition the Free Press published a Police Insider article called, “A Leopard Can Change Its Spots,” an inspirational story about an ex-gang member who found his way out of gang life.
I’ve always believed that as front line soldiers in the fight against crime, Police Officers have much to offer the public in the way of understanding and insight into the criminal landscape of our City, crime trends and patterns, issues regarding street gangs, the revolving doors of justice and public safety issues.
It was the culture of silence and suppression of the right to free speech that inspired me to launch The Police Insider when I retired from the WPS in the Spring of 2013. Since the launch, The Police Insider has recorded almost one hundred and twenty-five thousand (125,000) views.
It seems Chief Clunis shares my views, “As we move forward striving to create a culture of safety in Winnipeg, I believe it’s important that Winnipeggers get a real sense of the passion and compassion of their officers in bringing about that change. The momentum to create change is quickened when many voices and perspectives are shared in the hope of building real understanding and appreciation,” he told the Police Insider.
He explained further, “That’s why I’ve opened the lines of communication and afforded members the opportunity to share their impassioned views with our public. We recognize that we are part of the community and in order for us to help shape a better future for our city, we must become better connected. Communication is the key.”
It seems the new culture of communication is being widely embraced by a great many socially conscious citizens in our City.
That interest and support is greatly appreciated.
Many people believe the Winnipeg Free Press is an anti Police Organization that caters to Liberal ideals when it comes to crime and punishment.
It should be noted that the Winnipeg Free Press has published fourteen (14) Police Insider articles and has given voice to current and former members of the Police Service like Halley, Golebioski & Zacharias.