Winnipeg police slow on domestic violence calls, report says

A Canadian Police Association report has found it takes Winnipeg police about 77 minutes to respond to a domestic violence call.

Canadian Police Association report finds average wait time to be 77 minutes for lower priority calls

Winnipeg police slow on domestic violence calls, report says.

9 years ago
Duration 2:14
A Canadian Police Association report has found it takes Winnipeg police about 77 minutes to respond to a Priority 3 call, which includes domestic violence call.​ Sean Kavanagh reports.

A Canadian Police Association report has found it takes Winnipeg police about 77 minutes to respond to a Priority 3 call, which includes domestic violence call.​

The finding was part of an operational review of the Winnipeg Police Service. The full review will be released after police remove any sensitive information in it.

The report found “Priority 3” calls, which include domestic violence calls and assault with a weapon calls, went unattended for an average of 77 minutes.

Tom Stamatakas of the Canadian Police Association, a national union representing police, said that's not acceptable.

"I don't think any citizen in this community would say it's OK to wait over an hour to have a police officer come and help me when I am in the middle of a domestic or someone is coming to my property and threatening to do me bodily harm," he said.

The city’s chief of police, Devon Clunis, said the police force will look at how they prioritize calls going forward.

"Not all Priority 3's are domestics," the chief said. "They could be other types of incidents. You can't just ... take that one stat and attach it to domestics. Domestics for us are a high priority call, and we ensure that we get to them in a very timely manner," Clunis said. 

Clunis added that not every domestic violence call requires a high priority response. 

"We assess each call as it comes in and the appropriate response is then given to that call," he said. 

He said if an officer believes lives are threatened, they will respond immediately.

Winnipeg police found the bodies of a woman and a man when they answered a call at an apartment building on Jefferson Avenue in March of 2012. Police said it was a murder-suicide. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

“This (system) has been in place for a period of time,” he said. “Certainly we can go back and assess it, but the bottom line is that if there’s a domestic call where somebody’s health – life, is in danger, it gets an immediate response.”

The study was commissioned by the Canadian Police Association from criminologists at Simon Frasier University, and cost around $180,000. 

The report also says response times in Winnipeg for calls including child safety, assault with a weapon, shots fired, stabbing reported, range from 26 to 51 minutes.

Mike Sutherland of the Winnipeg Police Association, the union representing local police, said the study shows that for those calls as well, Winnipeg is way behind.

"I want to give a proper context to the calls we are talking about," he said. "In any other city, we could expect a response time in under 17 minutes."

The conclusions of the report contrasts an operations review released last week that was done for the City of Winnipeg by an American company called Matrix. That report did not flag response time concerns.​

Sutherland said the Matrix review fell short of information specific to Winnipeg.

"I have always had some dubious concerns in relation to Matrix's report," he said. "I think that was born out, given the content of the report and the sort of 'cut and paste' situation that occured."

Parts of the Matrix report were duplicated from work the authors had done for other cities.

Other key findings from the report include Winnipeg being a “high-demand environment” with the “highest rates of serious violent crime among metropolitan centres in Canada.”

The report acknowledged the force faces unique challenges providing policing services to “Winnipeg’s urban Aboriginal community” and newcomers.

Police officers are also handling cases that should be handled by social services or other agencies, according to the report. In particular, officers are inundated with calls related to mental illness and runaway youths.

At least two districts are significantly understaffed and don’t have enough cruisers, the report found. It has not yet been identified what districts those are.

The report also wants to see response times and proactive rather than reactive policing happen in Winnipeg.

It also outlined Winnipeg’s need for crime analysts going forward.

The police chief said both the Matrix review and the Canadian Police Association report will be studied for guidance.​


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