Potential Winnipeg police cuts short-sighted, says director of police studies centre

The director of a police studies centre who reviewed the Winnipeg Police Service says he's "perplexed" by the proposed cuts and calls them "short-sighted."

Community engagement officers will be first to go, says Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie

The potential loss of community engagement officers and the retirement of police Chief Devon Clunis are a big loss for Winnipeg, a police studies centre director said. (CBC)

The director of a police studies centre who reviewed the Winnipeg Police Service says he's "perplexed" by the proposed cuts and calls them "short-sighted."

Curt Griffiths from Simon Fraser University worked on an operational review of the Winnipeg Police Service in 2013, which looked at the environment officers work in.

"Winnipeg is what we would call a very high-demand environment — it has a high crime severity index score, it has a high violent crime rate. The officers are responding to various serious types of crimes," he said.

The report found it took Winnipeg police 77 minutes on average to respond to Priority 3 calls, which include calls about domestic violence and child safety. 

"These response times are way out of bounds," he said. "In most police services, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, that's a six to seven, eight, nine, 10 minute response time at most, particularly in the area of domestic."

North Winnipeg and downtown put a high demand on the officers, he said.

Griffiths said his review showed while officers in other police services spend 20 to 25 per cent of their time on community engagement, Winnipeg police have virtually no time to do this.

"They were going from call to call to call, so reducing their numbers is just going to put stress on the remaining officers, and that's going to have consequences not only for the community but for the officers themselves," he said.

Earlier this week, Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie, who sits on the police board, said the service will get rid of 80 officers because of a budget shortfall. Community engagement officers, who have worked on the front lines of community building in North Point Douglas, William Whyte, Centennial and Spence, will be the first to go, Eadie said. 

"What they'll have to do is take those proactive positions and move them into reactive positions," Eadie said.

Griffiths said officers who engage in communities help reduce and prevent crime. Cutting those officers and the retirement of Chief DevonClunis are a big loss for Winnipeg. 

"The core component of a police service is being cut out if that's the case," said Griffiths. "I would add that the unfortunate thing here as well is you're losing a top police leader — a very highly respected person who has a great vision."

Griffiths said unless more research has been done since his review to show that the demands for Winnipeg police have changed, the cuts are not a good idea. 

"I'm really curious about the rationale behind doing this, because I think it's very short-sighted," he said. "It's a bit perplexing to me."

The Winnipeg Police Service has not yet released details about potential cuts.