Police racking up overtime for ticket duty
The Winnipeg Police Service is spending a lot of taxpayer money on overtime for officers to ticket drivers.
Numbers obtained by Wise Up Winnipeg, a group dedicated to fighting photo radar enforcement, show police officers from different departments were pulled in to work in traffic enforcement for 627 overtime shifts between June and November 2012.
The cost? About $860,000.
Those numbers are related to Project Drive, which aimed to earn more than $1 million for the Winnipeg Police Service through traffic fines.
So Todd Dube from Wise Up Winnipeg filed a Freedom of Information request to see how the police force pulled it off.
That's where the numbers came from. Dube calls it a cash grab and said the overtime hours would be better spent on crime prevention.
"They're stopping people for tail lights, for not having enough windshield wiper fluid," he said, adding he thinks the city is behind the push for tickets and revenue.
Police union baffled by overtime data
The union that represents the city's police officers is also baffled by the data and frustrated the overtime isn't being dedicated to fighting other types of crime.
"It just seems odd to me that the city would push the service to cut down overtime in what I would think would be more important safety issues, [yet] appears to have pulled the plug out and just thrown the baby out with the bathwater with this overtime," said George Van Mackelbergh of the Winnipeg Police Association.
That focus on traffic enforcement indicates a dangerous set of priorities operating at city hall, he added.
"As a police officer, myself, it kind of tends to make me wonder why the authorization for extra shifts for break-and-enter patrols or organized crime aren't as authorized with such vigor."
But Mayor Sam Katz says he sees no problem with police officers putting in extra shifts.
"I think we have sufficient officers at this stage of the game, to be very frank with you. There's always been police overtime, as far as I can recall," he said.
Coun. Scott Fielding, who heads up the city's protection and community services committee, is an outspoken critic of red light cameras and has always said there should be more officers dedicated to traffic enforcement.
However, he agreed the traffic enforcement overtime numbers are problematic and said it's time for police to look at the way it manages its officers.
"There might be some aspects on the operational side that we need to take a look at," he said.
CBC News has not been able to reach the Winnipeg Police Service for comment.