One year after a Winnipeg Transit driver was stabbed to death on the job, the City of Winnipeg is still trying to decide what sort of security personnel will be placed on buses.
The 2018 budget calls for the city to spend $717,000 on transit security staff and Winnipeg Transit positions for point duty officers. The funding is part of a broader package of transit security initiatives that also includes driver-shield testing, expanding on-board surveillance systems and more training to allow bus drivers to defuse potential conflicts.
These measures were approved by city council following the Feb. 14, 2017 death of Irvine Jubal Fraser, who was stabbed while operating a Winnipeg Transit bus on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.
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No less than $590,000 of the $717,000 in the new funding for personnel will be devoted to creating "a security presence" of some form, city council public works chair Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge) said Tuesday.
But the city has yet to determine whether the new security complement will be comprised of members of the Winnipeg Police Service, brand new Winnipeg Transit security workers or private security workers. The original intention was to hire no fewer than five workers overall.
Morantz said the decision will not be made until the city's transit advisory committee, or TAC — a body created in the wake of Fraser's death — determines the best way to proceed.
That committee includes a representative from the Winnipeg Police Service and has met three times so far, the councillor said.
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"It is an issue that will be addressed as we move forward in the TAC meetings," said Morantz, adding the committee needs to hear from the police before it makes a final decision.
"I think the optimal decision would be to have an enhanced police security presence, but if the police service can't accommodate that, we'd look to other options."
Private security 'unacceptable': union
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which represents Winnipeg Transit drivers, would prefer to see police officers on board buses.
"We made it very clear right from Day 1 … that we wanted transit police officers, either working through the police department or a transit security team, like a police force," said Aleem Chaudhary, president of ATU Local 1505.
Private security workers would "be unacceptable," he said.
The anniversary of Fraser's death has left some bus drivers frustrated that the city has yet to make a decision about transit security, Chaudhary added.
"The transit community is having a hard time, all the operators currently, because the process has been a little bit slow," he said. "They were promised that there would be transit police and they're waiting for it. It's been a year."
Morantz said he respects Chaudhary's comments, but did not agree with his characterization.
"I don't believe we've been dragging our feet at all. We've been working diligently on the issue to try to provide more security," Morantz said.
The councillor noted former ATU 1505 president John Callahan serves on the Transit Advisory Committee. Chaudhary said he has not had the opportunity to speak to his predecessor about the issue.
ATU Local 1505 plans to hold a vigil for Fraser at the Union Centre on Broadway at 10 a.m. Wednesday.