Chief of Police or Chief Apologist

The situations they face afford public figures the opportunity to define themselves.

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The Situation

Part I the Media Release

It started innocently enough with the following Media Release

November 29, 2016

Winnipeg Police Service Media Release
For Immediate Release

Update – Homicide Investigation – C14-266289

Male Arrested:

As previously released -On December 14, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., Winnipeg Police Service members and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service responded to the area of Selkirk Avenue and Charles Street for the report of a female having been stabbed.

An adult female, suffering from stab wounds, was located and transported to hospital in critical condition. She succumbed to her injuries.

The victim was identified as Angela Marie POORMAN, 29 years of Winnipeg.

The investigation continued by members of the Homicide Unit.

Investigators learned the victim met a male early that morning. An argument erupted between the two and the male suspect produced a large knife. The victim was stabbed multiple times before the male fled the area.

Due to the efforts of numerous WPS resources, some of which include: Uniform Patrol, Forensic Identification, Counter Exploitation Unit and Major Crimes, a suspect was identified and arrested.

On November 28, 2016, a charge of 2nd Degree Murder was authorized and an 18 year old male was arrested. The accused cannot be named as he was a youth at the time of the alleged offence.

He was remanded into custody.

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Part II, the press conference

In the subsequent news conference police spokesperson Jason Michalyshen expanded on the Media Release and added some additional information.

He stated in part:

“Their encounter on this one particular morning was essentially an agreement for sexual services for cash.”

“This agreement led to an argument specific to money and ultimately the accused in this matter allegedly produced a large knife and proceeded to strike or stab Ms. Poorman multiple times.”

Part III, the accusation

Enter Leslie Spillett the Director of Ka Ni Kanichihk and former members of the Winnipeg Police Board with the following comments:

“It framed Angela Poorman as a sex-trade worker, which had nothing to do with her murder.”

“Indigenous women are always characterized in such a negative way, which adds to their victimization.”

“Stop blaming Indigenous women for being murdered.”

Part IV, the Chief’s response

This was a defining moment for Chief Smyth.

Would he point out to Spillett that Poorman’s tragic death had everything to do with her being a sex trade worker and was a death that could have been prevented?  Would he make this a ‘teaching’ moment for Spillett, sex trade workers and indeed the public or would be veer off into political correctness?

Smyth choose the latter course, offering an apology to Spillett and the Indigenous community at large.

He then took it one step further and personally ‘spoke to’ (read reprimanded) the Public Information officer in question.

Part V, Conclusion

Chief Smyth has taken the first step to becoming the Chief Apologist and not the Chief of Police of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Should Police Concentrate on Hot Spots or Hot People?

It was a simpler time in 1973 when I first entered the world of policing as a beat officer.  There were no cell phones, no Twitter and certainly no Facebook.  Tracking criminals and the  relationships between criminals was a pencil and paper exercise.

The Winnipeg Police Department kept a list that all rookies were first exposed to during training.  The list was called ‘Local Active Criminals’.  Officers were expected to stay familiar with that list which changed from time to time as members on the list either were killed, received long prison sentences, or as new up and comers were added to the list.  Officers were required to be able to recognize criminals on the list on sight, and whenever they were seen it was the obligation of each officer to stop and interview them and then submit a spot check form.  It was the Department’s way of tracking what these people were doing, who they were with and establish where they were currently residing.  It was a simple yet effective way of tracking the activities and relationships that existed within the group.

Recently the Chicago Police Department ( yes,’ Department’ in the United States  many police agencies have resisted the notion that they need to become a ‘Service’ versus a ‘Department’) has launched a social media based network analysis process that maps the relationships between Chicago’s 14,000 most active gang members.  This analysis assists police in establishing how likely it is that members of the group will kill someone, or be killed.  For example, the analysis has determined that members of the groups are between 300 and 400 times more likely to be killed than the average citizen.

Chicago and other American cities including Boston and San Francisco are making extensive use of social media to track gang activity and arrest gang members.

This has led some to conclude that in many cases instead of concentrating on ‘hot spots’ police should concentrate on ‘hot people’, much like back in 1973 when Winnipeg police concentrated on local active criminals.  Aspects of the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy used that approach, identifying a group of high risk offenders who were stealing large numbers of cars and concentrating their efforts on those people, as opposed to the  geographical areas where the cars were being stolen from.  That worked out quite well as auto theft rates in Winnipeg have plummeted since that approach was adopted.

Maybe its time that police in general start paying more attention to people as opposed to places in their quest to  reduce and prevent crime.  ‘Hot people’ policing may be more effective than ‘hot spot’ policing.

New Scotland Yard on the Move?

Metropolitan Police Headquarters, 8-10 Broadway, Westminster, London

 

Budget cuts and staffing reductions are causing the police in London England to re-evaluate their accommodation needs.  One of the cost cutting measures being looked at is moving from their current headquarters,  New Scotland Yard, to a smaller facility.

New Scotland Yard has served as the headquarters for London Police Since 1967.  Prior to moving to the new Scotland Yard in 1967, the headquarters was located in the Norman Shaw Building (1890-1967), Great Scotland Yard (1875-1890) and prior to that at 4 Whitehall Place, which had a rear entrance to a street called Great Scotland Yard.

The name Scotland Yard has been synonymous with policing  in London since the formation of the Metropolitan Police by Sir Robert Peel in 1829.

The move to a smaller facility would save the City of London  in the range of 10.5 million dollars annually.

No Charges in Bousquet Case

After more than two years of investigation the  RCMP announced today that their review of the Cody Bousquet case is complete and that no charges are warranted.

RCMP Tight Lipped About Bousquet Investigation

In December of 2009 the media was in an uproar over the alleged use of excessive force by Winnipeg police when they arrested  Cody Bousquet.

Allegations of police misconduct filled the air.

In January of 2010 the Winnipeg Police Service decided to call in the RCMP to conduct a review of the incident.  The intent of the review was to determine if  members of the Winnipeg Police Service used excessive force in arresting Bousquet.  One of the reasons the RCMP was asked to do the review was that one of the officers involved was the current Chief’s nephew.

As the investigation has now been ongoing for close to 2 years I decided to follow-up to determine if any progress has been made.

I first contacted the Winnipeg Police Service to inquire as to the status of the investigation and received the following reply:

This investigation is being handled by the RCMP and therefore all questions pertaining to the investigation should be directed to them.

I then contacted the RCMP and asked them the same question.  The RCMP replied with this statement:

The RCMP is not in a position to comment on this specific matter at this time.

Generally, only in the event that an investigation results in the laying of criminal charges, would the RCMP confirm its investigation, the nature of any charges laid and the identity of the individual (s) involved.

Despite the fact that the RCMP would seem to have a policy on not confirming they are conducting an investigation until such time as charges are laid, I found an interesting quote in an article by Chris Ketching where the RCMP did in fact comment on and confirm that they were investigating the Bousquet matter.

The RCMP has been made aware of this apparent contradiction.  No response at the time of this writing.

Winnipeg Police Response to the Laszlo Piszker Case

Winnipeg Police recently issued a News Release after they got some push back from Laszlo Piszker.   Piszker was issued with a traffic offence notice alleging distracted driving (talking on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle).

In this particular case the issue made its way into the media and quickly became not only a local but also a national story.

This is the News Release issued by Winnipeg Police:

  Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

In response to media inquiries regarding a distracted driving provincial offence notice that was recently issued, the Winnipeg Police Service has the following response:
Distracted driving is a serious safety issue similar to impaired driving or speeding and numerous studies have concluded that it increases the likelihood of collisions.
The Winnipeg Police Service has conducted a review of this incident and has information that is contradictory to the information that has been depicted in the local media.
It is alleged that on March 2nd, 2012 officers were in a police cruiser car that was travelling on Portage Avenue when they observed a male driver of a vehicle with a cell phone held to his ear. Officers were 7 to 8 feet away from the driver when this was observed.  Emergency lighting equipment was activated and it took several blocks before the vehicle pulled over.  A provincial offence notice was issued to the male driver of the vehicle.
The Winnipeg Police Service will not be discussing this specific incident any further as the proper forum to contest an offence notice is in a Provincial Court.  A Judge or Judicial Justice of the Peace will hear the evidence and render a decision.
Winnipeg Police Service will continue to enforce the sections in the Highway Traffic Act related to Distracted Driving to ensure our roadways are safe.

For further information contact either: 
Constable Natalie Aitken, Public Information Officer
Constable Jason Michalyshen, Public Information Officer

Office: (204)986-3061
Fax: (204) 986-3267
Email: WPS-PIO@Winnipeg.ca 
Web: 
www.winnipeg.ca/Police

The purpose of this post is not to discuss the merits of the case against Mr. Piszker.  That case is before the courts and will and should be decided in the courts, not in the media, and not in the court of public opinion.  The purpose is rather to respond to how the police service has reacted to the media.

Police departments are well aware that comments to the media about pending court cases, especially the discussion of the evidence in a particular case, can prejudice the case and the ability of the accused to  get a fair trial.

That is why most police departments including the Winnipeg Police Service have policies that restrict and, in many  cases prohibit, police from commenting on cases before the courts. The Winnipeg Police Service Media Policy and the media policies of most police departments have a line that says: “Do not prejudice trials” and the first point listed usually references”discussing evidence”.  That is why so often you will hear police respond with “we cannot comment further as the matter is before the courts”.  That is a reasoned and appropriate response.

So what was it that prompted Winnipeg Police to violate that policy and issue this press release which discusses the evidence?

Several things come into play: police officers and police unions put significant pressure on police executives to respond to the media in situations such as this to defend the actions of the officers involved. Secondly, as a police executive, it is only natural to want to defend the organization when its actions or the actions of its members come under attack.   Some police executives wisely take the heat in the short-term and do the right thing which is to advise the media that the matter is before the courts, the evidence will be revealed at trial and the decision will be made by the courts and decline further comment. Not so the Winnipeg Police Service.

The Actions of the Winnipeg Police

Let’s start by examining the content of the News Release.  It starts by comparing distracted driving with impaired driving and speeding.  The purpose here would be to villianize the accused in this case (who has dared to speak publicly about this issue) and place him in the same category of offender as impaired drivers, a category of offenders who have little public sympathy.  Are impaired driving and speeding actually similar to using a cell phone while driving?  I think that an argument can be made that distracted driving, although a serious offence in its own right, is still just a violation of the Highway traffic Act, A Provincial Statute, and subject to a fine.  That’s a poor comparison to impaired driving which is a criminal offence which can result in license suspension and in extreme cases, jail time.  In terms of speeding, drivers exceeding the limit by say 10 or 15 KPH are much less likely to cause or become involved in an accident than a distracted driver.  Neither offence is a good comparator.

The News Release then goes on to discuss the evidence in terms of what the issuing officer(s) saw.  This is out of line.  Evidence should be presented to the court not the media.

The case reminds me of the reaction of Winnipeg Police in the Evan Maud case, a case that involved an allegation that members of the Winnipeg Police Service had taken a young male on a “Starlight Tour”.  The case eventually resulted in a charge of public mischief being laid against Maud but again the police released a lot of the evidence in the case to the media in an attempt to sway public opinion in favour of the Police Service.

It is not appropriate for police to pick and choose when they will comply with their policy to not discuss cases and release evidence relating to matters before the courts..

Expedience should not replace adherence to  basic policies, values and principles in police decision making in matters such as these.

The Traffic Ticket Quota Issue

A sense of déjà vu.

Back in 2010 I wrote a poston this issue.  I will reference two paragraphs from that post and remember, this was written back in 2010:

The recent attempt by the Winnipeg Police Service to impose traffic quotas was cloaked under the guise of overall officer performance, attempting to ensure that officers perform all aspects of their job.  The monitoring of officer performance in and of itself is a good strategy.  However, such a strategy will only succeed if the monitoring of traffic enforcement statistics is part of an overall performance monitoring strategy.  If traffic enforcement is the only statistic being measured while other aspects of their performance such as the numbers of arrests made are not, officers soon realize that it’s not about performance, it’s about revenue. 

As with many approaches timing is everything.  The Service’s recent foray into the traffic ticket quota minefield at a time when photo radar and traditional enforcement revenues are down and the Service is facing a budget shortfall might suggest that the need for additional revenue has trumped performance and road safety.    

It is now two years later and the Winnipeg Police Service is doing an encore performance.  Again they are facing a budget shortfall and are looking to the revenue side to address the issue and the revenue side means more tickets.

In the words of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Flaws in the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report

Do the math:  According to the numbers in the Winnipeg Police Annual Report, crime in Winnipeg may be up by as much as 9% and not down 7% as stated. 

As I made my way through the just released 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report I admired the politically correct pictures, and the really cute picture of the puppies.

It was when I got to the meat of the matter, the statistics that is, that I realized that there was a problem with the report – a big problem.

Winnipeg Police Annual Reports have traditionally reported on the number of Criminal Code Offences both geographically (by district of occurrence) and temporally ( month of occurrence).  This year is no different, however, in each case a new column has been added.

The Criminal Code Offences By District Table has a new column titled “not district specific” .  A total of 9548 offences are reported in this column including 1 homicide, 138 robberies and  8109  “theft $5000 or under (Non-Motor Vehicle)”.  It seems inconceivable that the Police Service took reports of over 8000 thefts and was not able to determine in which of the five police districts the theft occurred.  But, as there is no note attached to this newly introduced column, one must assume that is the case.  Whatever happened to occurrences being assigned a location by address and atom?

The Criminal Code Offences By Month Table also saw the addition of a new column, again without any note or explanation attached.  The column is titled “Undertermined”.  I’m assuming it should read as ‘undetermined’.  This column lists 8521 offences.  They include 132 robberies and 7707 Theft $5000 or Under (Non-Motor Vehicle) offences.  Again, one would think that the police should be able to determine with some degree of accuracy when people were robbed and where and when they had their property stolen.  Without any note or explanation attached to this addition to the annual report one must assume they can not.

Lastly, the big one.  The 2010 Annual Report lists the total number of Criminal Code Offences reported to police in 2010 as 61,680.  The report says that this represents a reduction of 7% from the previous year.  Here is the problem:  the 2009 Annual Report lists the total number of crimes reported as 56,427.  Based on those numbers that would mean a 9% increase compared to 2009.  That is a 16% difference and that is significant.

Pending an explanation one must conclude, based on the numbers in the Annual Report, that crime in Winnipeg may be up by as much as 9% in 2010 compared to 2009.

I guess 12 months was just not enough time to do all the ‘figurin and cipherin’ required to get the numbers right.  I have attached a link to a video on Ma and Pa Kettle Math that might help.