I was recently contacted by a news reporter and asked if I would provide a quote for a story exploring City of Winnipeg 2012 Salary Compensation data. Her angle centered on salary comparisons between Police Officers and Firefighters, a potentially controversial subject that might sow the seeds of division between these often interdependent entities.
Ultimately, I declined to contribute but was impressed by the temperate understanding expressed in the story by Alex Forrest, United Firefighters President who said;
“Firefighters make less than Police Officers, but if there’s one organization that knows what police do, it’s firefighters. There’s not one firefighter who begrudges the pay that police get. Firefighters and police are traditionally paid more than other City staffers because they’ve seen our job is more dangerous than other jobs.”
The disclosure of large salaries earned by civic employees often generates a high degree of public outrage from people who don’t buy into the danger component or simply dismiss it as a hazard of the job. These people are on the “outside” and can’t be expected to fully appreciate or understand the dangers or sacrifice that contributes to rising costs related to police remuneration.
As a sympathetic insider, Mr Forrest gets it.
Three (3) WPS Officers cracked the top ten list for salary compensation in 2012;
- Deputy Chief Art Stannard – $201,463
- Chief Keith McCaskill – $193,173
- Sergeant R Read – $186,580
At first glance you might be perplexed. How does a Police Sergeant earn a salary that approaches that of a Police Chief or his Deputy. The not so obvious answer is Sergeant Read is a Homicide Unit Supervisor who works exceedingly long hours. Only a select few have a practical appreciation and understanding of the dynamics that drive wages in the Homicide Unit. Even fewer understand the stress and personal sacrifice such a job entails.
In 2009, I worked in the Homicide Unit with co-supervisor Sergeant Ken Shipley. That year we recorded a total of thirty (30) homicides, three (3) of which remain unsolved. Not so coincidentally, the unsolved murders were all gang related. In fact, at least ten (10) of the killings that year were gang related or had some sort of street gang connection.
In 2009, the following salaries were reported in the City of Winnipeg salary compensation disclosure report:
- Sergeant K Shipley – $190,093.69
- Sergeant J Jewell – $181,635.55
- Chief K McCaskill – $180,040.54
- Deputy S Hart – $154,328.49
- Deputy A Stannard – $152,299.82
When these numbers were reported the operations of the Homicide Unit came under heavy scrutiny.
In 2010, Deputy Chief Hart commissioned one of the most intensive reviews of Homicide Unit operations in the history of the Winnipeg Police Service. The impetus for the review was obvious and directly related to the salaries earned by the Homicide Unit Supervisors.
(Not so obvious were the feelings of contempt and hostility fostered by individuals of superior rank who struggled with the idea that wages earned by officers of significantly lower rank would greatly exceed that of their own.)
Make no mistake, certain high-ranking individuals fully expected the Operational Review to expose the Homicide Unit supervisors as either gluttons or fraudsters or a combination of both. Those sentiments were only heightened when retired Homicide Sergeant Robert Marshall published a report in the Winnipeg Free Press that added fuel to an already raging fire. His report was clearly influenced by the jaded perspective of Deputy Chief Hart and insinuated something had gone terribly wrong with WPS Homicide Unit operations.
I saw the report as a traitorous half-hearted journalistic attempt to explore a significant issue that merited an unbiased investigative approach. If Marshall had simply picked up the telephone he would have learned WPS Homicide salaries were consistent with those across our Western Canadian comparators. Marshall’s limited understanding of the evolution of crime in Winnipeg was disheartening to his former colleagues who continued to slug it out in the Murder Capitol of Canada.
Homicide Investigation had significantly evolved since Marshall worked the ultimate crime. As organized crime and criminal street gangs gained prevalence and strength, homicide investigation became a labour intensive proposition. The evolution of crime and social media created obligations Marshall never experienced as an investigator. Obligations like;
- The impact of the increasing use of Child Soldiers in Street Gang Crime
- The increased use of firearms
- The impact of witness protection and management, once a rare concern, has now become a serious consideration in almost every gang related killing
- The impact of the prevalence of FASD and related witness issues
- The impact of the evolution of social media and the creation of new avenues that require investigation
- The impact of the increased prevalence of video recordings and the need for labor intensive reviews of such recordings
- The impact of the evolution of police procedures and obligations related to disclosure
- The evolution of complex warrant applications, production orders, DNA warrants, entry warrants and Criminal Code warrants
- The impact of increasing unsolved homicides and the labour intensive obligation to resolve such cases
Those of us who’ve led modern-day homicide investigations have no difficulty understanding the ballooning effect the evolution of crime has had on the bottom line. Homicide Investigation is an expensive laborious exploit that only gets more complicated with the passage of time.
When news of the 2010 review of Homicide Unit operations came down, Homicide Unit members were excited about the results such an undertaking might reveal. The findings had to be disturbing for Deputy Hart who would have been disappointed that no fraud or gluttony was exposed as she may have expected. Homicide Unit members saw the results as unequivocal vindication.
The findings were an indictment of police leadership and exposed the disconnect between the people in the trenches and the decision makers.
The findings included but are not limited to the following:
- The Homicide Unit operated with approximately half of the investigators of comparators
- The Homicide Unit had no civilian support staff. Comparators employed 1-3 or more civilian members
- The Homicide Unit solved murders at approximately 50% of the cost of comparators
- The Homicide Unit had an approximate 90% solvency rate over a twelve-year period, this clearance rate is extremely high and is significantly higher than comparators
- The Homicide Unit operated under the restrictions of an extremely detrimental and limiting transfer policy
Deputy Chief Hart could not longer bury her head in the sand. The truth was out there and could not be denied. The Police Service had neglected the Homicide Unit for years and changes would have to be made to offer more support to an overburdened group of dedicated soldiers. Once the results were published, a committee was formed to review the findings and to make recommendations to the Police Executive.
I was asked to join the committee and was named subject matter expert in relation to homicide investigation. (Ironically, I was the only member of the Review Panel who had previous experience working in Homicide Unit Operations.)
In the fall of 2010, Review Panel members arrived at a consensus and made several recommendations to enhance and support members of the Homicide Unit. These recommendations included the addition of investigative staff, a dedicated affiant, analyst, administrative staff and increased tenure for Homicide Investigators, an issue I championed.
By the Spring of 2011, none of the recommendations were implemented.
On March 15, 2011, I was the subject of a curt blind side transfer that saw me ousted from my position as Homicide Unit Supervisor. It was clear my strong advocacy to change the transfer policy and the residual effects of the wage inquisition was behind the treacherous move. The Police Service took the position the transfer was just “business as usual” and tried to defend it as such at an labour arbitration hearing that saw testimony from Hart and two of her hatchet men.
Testimony from Police Service witness would later be described by the arbitrator as “evasive, contrived, convenient, unconvincing, misleading, repeatedly deceptive and lacking in candor & credibility.”
Ironically, one of those hatchet men testified they selected Sergeant Read to the Homicide Unit because he was an active supervisor who operated with considerable fiscal restraint. The inference being he would somehow bring the salaries earned by Homicide Unit supervisors back in check. The latest disclosure report confirms this was but one of several misguided philosophical “ideas” advanced by the impudent “leaders” in the WPS power grid.
The truth is, nothing much has changed in the Homicide Unit since I was forced out of the game. The supervisors salaries are still north of $180,000 and the men and women working those interview rooms are still earning around $150,000. With those salaries comes double and sometimes triple shifts, transient sleep deprivation, missed family holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, parent teacher meetings, social events and absenteeism from the family unit.
All aspects of Police work not fully appreciated or understood by people like Deputy Chief Shelly Hart.
If she did “get it,” she might have had a mindset more consistent with Alex Forrest.
Homicide investigators are a rare breed of dedicated professionals who rarely complain and sacrifice much.
They need not apologize for reaping the financial rewards that ascending to the top job in their industry brings them.
Let’s not begrudge the salaries earned by the ever dwindling list of police officers who are still willing to do the job.