True tests of leadership don’t come when one basks in the glory of winning an election or securing a high-profile job.
True tests of leadership come when the shit hits the fan.
The toxic fall out from the Opera Night Club murder and the 911 Communications Center controversy are sure to test the mettle of Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis. Make no mistake about it, an overblown controversy surrounding a man’s belief in prayer is not a true controversy. A true controversy involves life, death, liability, punishment and people losing their jobs.
Devon Clunis just caught his first true controversy.
On May 6, 2014, Clunis held a press conference announcing a number of Police Service Communications Center staff have been placed on administrative leave after concerns surfaced regarding the handling of a 911 call connected to the Opera Night Club killing.
Last Wednesday I did an interview with CJOB’s Charles Adler who suggested the public would perceive the Chief’s announcement as a, “confession” or an admission the Police Service had, “Blood on its hands.”
Others suggested Clunis, “Hung his people out to dry.”
In the past, the Police Service tried to put a positive spin on their use of “administrative leave.” In reality, administrative leave is nothing more than a politically correct term aimed to try to minimize the negative context associated to the term “suspension.” I have yet to meet someone who’d been placed on administrative leave who didn’t feel the pain, embarrassment and humiliation one might associate with a suspension. The fact someone is suspended from their duties automatically creates an inference of negligence, recklessness or a substandard performance.
In many ways it’s like being accused of a sex crime. Most people automatically default to a guilty as charged mindset and convict you without a trial.
It seems I’m the only person who wasn’t surprised by the hard-hitting questions Adler peppered me with when I tried to present the “flip side” to CJOB listeners. While I’m not completely sure if supporters were expressing concern or sympathy, I had to tell them, Adler’s not a big fan of blowing smoke up his guest’s asses. The man doesn’t apologize for putting “meat on the bones” of a story.
One of those questions was, “If you were the Police Chief in Winnipeg yesterday, would you have called a press conference?”
It was a tough question.
I have no problem criticizing Chief Clunis when circumstances dictate. In this case I’ll reserve judgement. Clunis was in a proverbial catch 22 situation. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. Suppress the information and be accused of a cover up or divulge it and be perceived as a guilty Politician trying to do damage control.
Either way, Devon Clunis wears it.
Regardless, his true test is yet to come.
The investigation into the 911 Communications Center will be in-depth and multifaceted. Issues to be examined will include, but will not be limited to;
- How the call was entered (call type, priority)
- Who cancelled the call
- Why the call was cancelled
- The ramifications of the cancellation
- Police call volumes
- Police unit availability
- Major Incidents & Events impacting service capability
- 911 protocols and practises
If the investigation reveals a clear breach of policy or procedure then someone will surely suffer internal charges and serious consequences.
If the investigation reveals there were no deviations from policy or procedure and the call was closed by someone who had been given the rank, authority or discretionary powers to assess and close 911 calls, then it would seem the issue becomes a systemic one. If that’s the case the responsibility then shifts to the Police Service and not individual (s) who work in the 911 Communications Center.
Astute Police Insider readers raise issues concerning;
- Normalized deviance
- Outcome bias
- Hindsight bias
- Apparent lack of malfeasance or nonfeasance
Police Chief Clunis and the internal investigators must be alert to these concerns when arriving at any conclusion regarding culpability.
With the recent arrest of Paclipan’s killer (s) certain information has provided an enhanced understanding of the events that occurred on the night in question. As a result, the following facts, conclusions and theories begin to emerge and gain strength;
- The firearm used in the killing was brought to the crime scene by a young offender and never made its way into the club
- No follow-up 911 call (s) were placed by Opera staff that may have raised the priority of the call for service
- There were no Police Units available once the original call was entered
- The call sat in the Police queue for 17 minutes and 15 seconds before it was closed
- The shooting took place 3 minutes & 58 seconds after the call was closed
- It’s extremely unlikely a Police Unit would have been dispatched to the club in time to prevent the murder whether the call had been closed or not
Whatever the findings of the internal investigation, Chief Clunis and the WPS are destined to learn much from the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Rustom Paclipan.
As one Police Insider reader put it, “The idea of individual culpability is a canard. No one came to work that night to do a bad job. Rules won’t keep us safe. You can’t have a rule for every situation, and writing a bunch more would be illusory.”
Sacrificial lambs are for farmers, not Police Chiefs.
Let’s hope Clunis gets it right.