Manitoba

Overwhelmed officers may no longer be able to arrest break-in, robbery suspects, police chief says

Police Chief Danny Smyth says the Winnipeg Police Service is so overloaded with work, many officers may not be able to arrest break-and-enter suspects.

'Hang in there,' Chief Danny Smyth tells his employees

Police Chief Danny Smyth says officers are overloaded with work because of an increase in call volumes, with a focus on violent crimes and the addictions crisis. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Police Chief Danny Smyth says the Winnipeg Police Service is so overloaded with work, many officers may not be able to arrest break-and-enter suspects.

In a memo to his employees issued on Tuesday, Smyth said he is "tired and frustrated" by what he described as an overwhelming demand on officers struggling to deal with an unusual number of homicide investigations, a spike in violent crime and the everyday demands placed on his members by methamphetamine and opioid patients.

"I see a forensic unit that is being run off its feet," Smyth said in the memo. "Members are coming to work on their days off to help with major scenes."

The chief said ordinary criminal investigations are also suffering.

"The evidence being collected by our personnel at break-ins and robberies is outpacing our ability to arrest and process those being identified as responsible for these crimes," he said.

Smyth thanked his members for their hard work and acknowledged the public is growing frustrated as well.

"Whether it's an emergency where you have dropped what you're doing to come to someone's side; or whether it's finally getting around to a less urgent call for service and having to face the wrath of someone who thinks it has taken too long for you to respond," he said.

The chief also blamed elected officials for failing to take swift action to deal with the addictions crisis.

"It's just hard to tell right now if anyone in government is committed to the actions necessary to help our community recover. Please hang in there," he told his members.

In a statement, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he agrees the police cannot solve addictions crises alone.

Winnipeg Police Board chair Kevin Klein said that's taking too long.

"We've heard all the political grandstanding about this being a problem, but nothing's happening," said Klein, the city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood.

"We have a number of addicts we have to help. We have to help them, but we have a higher number of citizens that are impacted by this."

Winnipeg's police union suggested the chief is deflecting blame. Winnipeg Police Association president Maurice Sabourin said crime is not a health issue.

"These people are committing crimes and that is a crime issue," Sabourin said in an interview. "I think that that is a way for him to to answer to the fact that we haven't been able to address the calls for service or the crime rate."

The chief said in a statement he will comment further on Monday, when the police will publish crime statistics for 2018.

Smyth said he is "tired and frustrated" by what he described as an overwhelming demand on officers struggling to deal with an unusual number of homicide investigations, a spike in violent crime and the everyday demands placed on his members by methamphetamine and opioid patients. 2:04

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

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