Winnipeg sees more police shootings in 2017 than Toronto, Vancouver

Winnipeg police officers shot five people so far this year — more than police in larger cities like Calgary, Toronto or Vancouver, according to data provided to CBC by police services and police oversight agencies.

Manitoba police watchdog 'very busy' investigating 5 Winnipeg police shootings in 2017

So far in 2017 there have been five police shootings in Winnipeg, one of the highest rates in Canada. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

Winnipeg police officers shot five people so far this year — more than police in larger cities like Calgary, Toronto or Vancouver, according to data provided to CBC by police services and police oversight agencies.

Two of the five men shot so far in 2017 were killed. The person involved in the most recent shooting, which happened early Tuesday, remains in critical condition.

The last time Winnipeg saw five police shootings in a single year was in 2010, when two people died.

Winnipeg police and criminologists say it's impossible to learn much from the data because police shootings are so rare.

The low number of incidents means the data can be volatile — a change of just one or two incidents can throw off percentages, making the situation look worse than it is.

"Officer-involved shootings are just a reflection of random crime," said Const. Rob Carver at a news conference Tuesday.

Toronto, a city with almost four times as many people than Winnipeg, saw two police shootings in 2017 and no deaths, according to Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, which investigates incidents involving the police that have resulted in death or serious injury.

Edmonton, a city with a population comparable to Winnipeg's, has seen seven police shootings this year.

Some cities that saw police shootings in 2017:

  • Edmonton: 7 incidents (2 deaths)
  • Winnipeg: 5 incidents (2 deaths)
  • Ottawa: 2 incidents (1 death)
  • Calgary: 2 incidents
  • Toronto: 2 incidents
  • Surrey, B.C.: 1 incident
  • Salmon Arm, B.C.: 1 incident
  • Vancouver: 1 incident

Colin Campbell, professor of criminology at Douglas College in B.C. and co-author of a textbook on Canadian policing, said because police shootings are so infrequent, especially compared to the United States, he chalks up hotspots to coincidence rather than trends.

For example, last year Calgary saw 10 shootings by police. This year the city has seen two.

"Over the long term, I don't think in Canada any one province or any one community is more prone to violence in the form of police shootings," Campbell said.

He said in the United States police training can differ between cities, whereas in Canada, there is a culture of sharing approaches and procedures between police departments.

"Police training is generally very good and very consistent."

'It is a lot,' says police watchdog

Campbell predicts Winnipeg police, like any Canadian police agency, will debrief after each incident with the hopes of gleaning lessons.

"I just don't see police officers in Canada as happy-go-lucky gunslingers," he said. "Any kind of police violence is disturbing to the community and should be."

Manitoba's police watchdog is currently "very busy" investigating each of the police shooting incidents this year — five in Winnipeg and two in other parts of the province.

"We're doing the best we can under the circumstances," said Zane Tessler, the civilian director of the Independent Investigation Unit, which investigates serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba.

"It's a lot, I have to say to you. I've spoken to some of my colleagues across the country. It is a lot."

Tessler said while his agency is facing an increased workload, he is confident the unit is equipped to fully investigate each case.

"The IIU has to be ready to respond when they are notified of matters and we have done so in every instance."

The Independent Investigation Unit is still working on completing investigations from September, said Tessler. 

With files from Kelly Malone