Manitoba

Winnipeg police chief 'fully supports' escort for Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg's police chief says he fully supports a decision earlier this week to give the Ottawa Senators a police escort so they could arrive at the MTS Centre in time for their game against the Jets.

Not giving NHL team a police escort would have given city 'a black eye,' says Devon Clunis

RAW: Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis on why he believes the police escort for the Ottawa Senators was the right decision for the city 1:53

Winnipeg's police chief says he fully supports a decision earlier this week to give the Ottawa Senators a police escort so they could arrive at the MTS Centre in time for their game against the Jets.

Police Chief Devon Clunis said he did not make the call to send police cruisers to accompany the Ottawa squad to the arena on Tuesday, but he would have done the same thing.

Clunis commended what he called "a prudent decision in my eyes."

"We are a city on the world stage. The NHL is a significant player," he said at a meeting of the Winnipeg Police Board on Friday morning.

"If we were not able to assist them to have the game occur on time for our citizens, for the international audience, I am certain we would have had a black eye."

The Senators' plane had arrived late due to mechanical issues that delayed its flight, the team said.

The Ottawa Senators pull up to the MTS Centre Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. with a police escort. The team says its plane had mechanical issues that delayed its flight to Winnipeg. (TSN)
When the team arrived in Winnipeg, their bus was whisked from the airport to the arena by several police cruisers, with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

The incident had Coun. Scott Gillingham, who chairs the police board, raising questions about who should get police escorts.

Gillingham also asked what resources escorts may be taking away from regular enforcement operations.

On Friday, Clunis said there was no threat to public safety whatsoever, there was no overtime incurred, and the cost of the police escort was fully paid for by the Ottawa Senators.

"At the end of the day, I absolutely support that decision because I thought it was the right decision for our city, for our citizens, and it was at absolutely no cost to the city whatsoever," he said.

Clunis said situations like this do not happen often, but the force does provide police escorts regularly for events like marches, parades and demonstrations.

"If all of a sudden someone decides to march from Portage and Main to, say, Higgins, in the interests of public safety we would be there to give them an escort," he said.

Precedent-setting?

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie asked Clunis if the Senators incident would set some kind of precedent. He noted, for example, that music concerts rarely start on time.

"Are we going to be providing escort services because a plane is late, because Taylor Swift couldn't make it to Winnipeg Stadium in time for her big concert?" Eadie asked.
Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis said he did not make the call to have police cruisers accompany the Ottawa Senators to the MTS Centre earlier this week, but he would have done the same thing. (CBC)

Eadie added that if the Senators had been late to Tuesday's game, True North Sports and Entertainment would likely have made extra money as fans waited inside the MTS Centre.

But Clunis stressed that there was "no operational impact at all" from the Senators' police escort, and the Winnipeg Police Service will look at each case on its own merits.

"It's an operational decision that is mine and the organization's to make, and we've made it and it's a great thing," he said.

"Even on national television, TSN was complimenting the Winnipeg Police Service. And we get scrutinized locally? So, I don't believe it's fair."

Gillingham said he was satisfied with Clunis's explanation, but added that policies around escorts will still be reviewed in an ongoing effort by the board to look at police policy.

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh

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