A sweeping review of the Winnipeg Police Service recommends streamlining some services but councillors insist none of the changes would affect safety on the streets.

The operational review, conducted by U.S.-based by Matrix Consulting, was expected to recommend major cuts and had the police union on edge.

Devon Clunis

Police chief Devon Clunis is set to speak to media Thursday morning about an ongoing internal investigation. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

A leaked version of the report came out in August and contained suggestions for cuts to the stolen car unit as well as disbanding the vice squad and closing the cold case unit.

There are no recommendations to drastically cut any units in the police service, although one suggestion was to end the horse patrol. 

However, Mayor Sam Katz said that would be unlikely, since the savings would be modest and the public relations benefit from the patrol is significant.

Instead, the report suggests further moves to "civilianize" the service by getting non-police officers to do more clerical work.

Katz also told reporters there is a recommendation to use existing staff at the City of Winnipeg to take over some office functions currently done by WPS staff.

Proactive policing

Police chief Devon Clunis welcomes the report, saying he likes that it calls for more proactive and less reactive policing, adding it works well with the changes he is already undertaking.

"The goal of the external review was to examine all areas to try and find innovative ways to make our police service more efficient and stretch existing dollars to ensure they are going to where they are most needed," stated a release from the city.

The review was necessary to ensure taxpayers dollars were being spent properly, in light of the fact the police operating budget increased by more than 10 per cent over 2012, making it the largest and fastest-growing city department, said Coun. Scott Fielding, chair of the Winnipeg Police Board.

"The review team examined existing operations, organizational structure, systems, technology, administration, and staffing," stated the city release.

The review found that WPS is providing high levels of service to the community. The review made 175 recommendations, some highlighting the reallocation of resources in some areas to help build on the efficiency and effectiveness of the police service.

George Van Mackelbergh, vice-president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said ahead of Tuesday's release of the report that he was worried about potential cuts.​

"We're a city that doesn't have an over-inflated budget [and] Winnipeggers get great policing for their dollar," he said.​

Van Mackelbergh said the service shouldn't be punished for the police administration's "mismanagement of big projects."

That mismanagement was in the headlines last week, when sources told CBC News that cost overruns to transform the former Canada Post building on Graham Avenue into the new police headquarters are now in the range of an additional $10 to $17 million above previously-reported overruns of $28 million.

Rather than cutting officers, if the police service instituted all the recommendations in the report it would have to hire more, police chief Clunis said.

That, however, is not something he is presently looking to do.

Fielding said there needs to be time to digest the report and discuss it with the Winnipeg Police Association and police brass before anything is implemented.

Highlights of recommendations 

  • Allowing for more recruitment of civilians in the WPS where skills such as specialized analytical and research abilities are required to help improve operations and increase public safety.
  • Continuing to better deploy police resources where they are most needed, based on evidence gathered through improved data and information collection. This builds upon Chief Clunis’ “Smart Policing” initiative.
  • Providing greater resources in the areas of exploited and missing persons to help break the cycle of young people who become involved in the sex trade, experience substance abuse, and join gangs to name a few. The WPS has already begun work in this area as a response to the community forums held in the summer.
  • Continuing to develop an administrative structure that increases the movement of critical reports and information.  This change will allow for more direct involvement by police supervisors while at the same time meeting all the requirements for full disclosure by the courts.