Harvard University to take a shot at reducing Winnipeg police calls for service

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has convinced Harvard University and Bloomberg Philanthropies to examine ways the city's police could reduce the calls for service.

Prestigious school to look at ways to trim the over 600,000 calls a year to Winnipeg police

The City of Winnipeg and Mayor Brian Bowman were selected earlier in 2019 to participate in the year-long Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Mayor Brian Bowman hopes the intellectual firepower of one of the most prestigious universities in the world can help reduce the number of calls for service responded to by Winnipeg police.

The City of Winnipeg and Bowman were selected earlier in 2019 to participate in the year-long Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a professional development program for municipal leaders around the world.

Bowman then pitched a specific project that allows the city of Winnipeg further access to Harvard's faculty, students and other resources at its Kennedy School and business programs.

The effort to reduce calls for service to the Winnipeg Police Service through improved collaboration was accepted by the program a month ago.

Winnipeg police received more than 600,000 calls for service in 2018, and between one-half and two-thirds of the calls to which officers were dispatched were in response to issues that were not criminal, the city says.

The project with Harvard will gather key stakeholders, analyze data and try to find ways to respond better to the calls and ease the strain on police resources.

Bowman said as many 30 different groups and agencies, including the Winnipeg police and fire services, the union representing officers, health and mental health care providers and other stakeholders will be invited by Harvard to participate.

"If we can reduce the demands on non-core policing dispatched calls, we are all going to benefit as a community, so the question becomes, how do you do that? And that's where Harvard's resources are being tapped," Bowman said Thursday.

The university and Bloomberg Philanthropies underwrite most of the cost of the work and the city will provide "nominal resources" to support the effort, he said.

The project is not dedicated to finding budget savings nor dictating police operations, Bowman said.