Manitoba

Police chief vows to reveal how force responded to HQ whistleblowers

Chief Danny Smyth has promised to disclose how the Winnipeg Police Service responded to police-headquarters whistleblowers — after the RCMP concludes its criminal investigation into the construction project.

Winnipeg police will divulge what they did with information, but only after RCMP investigation wraps up

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth says the Winnipeg Police Service will reveal why it did not interview one whistleblower and what it did with information provided by the other after an RCMP investigation is finished. (CBC)

Chief Danny Smyth has promised to disclose how the Winnipeg Police Service responded to police-headquarters whistleblowers — after the RCMP concludes its criminal investigation into the construction project.

The RCMP have been investigating the construction of Winnipeg's $214-million police headquarters since 2014, when Manitoba Justice asked the Mounties to review a KPMG audit of the project as well as a letter sent by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's prairie director to Manitoba Justice.

According to that letter as well as court documents, two whistleblowers approached the Winnipeg Police Service with information about the police headquarters, but only one of them was interviewed by city police.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said Friday that the Winnipeg Police Service will reveal why it did not interview one whistleblower and what it did with information provided by the other.

'This won't be the time'

Asked at city hall whether the police would disclose this information — whether or not a public inquiry is ever called — Smyth issued a clear "yes" but said that could only happen after the RCMP concludes its investigation.

"In terms of us accounting for our actions, this won't be the time," Smyth said following a Winnipeg Police Board meeting.

"In general, I don't think it would have been appropriate for the Winnipeg police to investigate the city officials involved with the headquarters," Smyth said.

"Clearly the RCMP is investigating that file. We've been in contact and are co-operating with the RCMP. Certainly we have provided information to them and actually continue to provide information to them as we learn about it." 

Information the RCMP provided to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant in 2014 says former Canadian Taxpayers Federation prairie director Colin Craig told Manitoba Justice that two people approached the Winnipeg Police Service with information about the police-headquarters project.

"The first witness met with the Winnipeg Police Service's Commercial Crime Unit in early November 2013. The individual described how invoices for the new police headquarters were allegedly manipulated, resulting in the city paying significantly more than necessary. This was allegedly done to the benefit of the firm billing the city," Craig told the province in a 2014 letter included in the RCMP affidavit.

"That same witness explained to police how a company involved in the project also allegedly provided funds to a member of council. The total funds provided or reasons for the transfer are not clear."

RCMP say in court documents that two whistleblowers came forward to the Winnipeg Police Service with allegations about the construction of the new police headquarters. One was interviewed. (CBC News )
Craig also told Manitoba Justice in his letter that "a second witness, not connected to the first witness described how their firm was also allegedly asked to improperly invoice the city. Despite approaching the WPS in early January, as of today the second witness has not yet been contacted for an interview."

The RCMP also stated in their 2014 affidavit that they asked the Winnipeg Police Service for the first witness's statement as well as the officer's notes on Nov. 19 and Dec. 12, 2014, but did not hear back from city police before the Mounties conducted their initial police-headquarters search.

Inquiry could focus on police actions

The RCMP initially investigated fraud and forgery allegations, court documents say. That investigation was later expanded into allegations of secret commissions and breach of trust, the court documents say.

The latter allegations prompted Mayor Brian Bowman to announce last week that he intends to ask the provincial government to call an inquiry.

The mayor suggested the actions of the Winnipeg Police Service could be reviewed as part of that public inquiry. He is expected to say later this month what he wants the scope of the inquiry to be, as part of a motion to executive policy committee.

The police chief said an inquiry would have to follow the RCMP investigation.

"A public inquiry may be something to consider down the road," Smyth said.

Winnipeg Police Association president Moe Sabourin said the Winnipeg Police Service may have been investigating the police headquarters on its own.

"There's a possibility that an investigation was already underway," Sabourin said Friday at city hall. "Any time there's an investigation, sometimes it can take a very long period of time. It might have been a case of not stepping on anybody's toes, at that point."

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