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.

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Personal Video Recorders

Several companies such as Taser and Vievu are selling small personal video recording  (PVR) devices designed specifically for police use.  These small cameras are very durable and are capable of recording extended police/citizen interactions.

These cameras serve two main purposes:  they provide video evidence police can use in the prosecution of charged persons, and they assist police managers in monitoring police behaviour.

A few major American police departments such as Cincinnati and Oakland have adopted the use of personal video recorders by its members.

The American experience has shown that police managers and unions don’t see eye to eye on the use of PVR’s.  They are especially appealing to police managers  who are dealing with a high volume of allegations of police misconduct.  Police unions are worried that management will use video footage against officers.

In Seattle where the police department is being investigated by the Justice Department for alleged misconduct,  a City Councilman is lobbying the mayor to include money in the 2012 budget to conduct a PVR pilot project in Seattle.  He hopes that such a pilot project would provide a more complete view of police encounters with the publicand that it would improve police behaviour.

The American experience has shown that the implementation in Winnipeg will in all likelihood require extensive negotiations with the Winnipeg Police Association.

The Winnipeg Police Service has 1 million dollars set aside in the Capital Budget  for PVR’s.  The priority of capital budget items can usually be judged fairly accurately by how often they get pushed back into the last year of the capital budget cycle.   For example, last year the expenditure was slated for 2015 in the final year of the cycle.   In this year’s Capital Budget it has been moved back to 2016.  In Winnipeg this is obviously not considered a priority.  It will be interesting to track the Capital Budget for the next several years to see if this proposed expenditure ever becomes a high priority.  Or will it be moved back year after year?  Or even perhaps eliminated or converted to some other use?

Does Money Buy Happiness?

Are You “Very Happy” With the Police Services You Receive?

When polling firms conduct public opinion surveys they attempt to quantify and qualify their results in terms of the overall accuracy of the survey  and how strongly respondents feel about a particular issue.  When asked questions respondents are given response options like “strongly agree, agree, either agree or disagree, disagree or strongly disagree”.  When doing surveys on satisfaction levels with a service being provided the terminology used is usually framed  in terms such as  “very happy, happy”, etc.

A recent poll conducted by Forum Research showed that in Winnipeg 25% of respondents were “very happy” with the services offered by the Winnipeg Police Service.

Nationally, 39% of respondents were “very happy” with the policing services they receive.

The current budget for policing in Winnipeg is around $200 million per annum.  That is  up approximately $50 million from 5 years ago.

One could argue that when it comes to policing, money does not necessarily buy ‘happiness’.

The RCMP Standard of Conduct

During the recent debate on the expunging of police disciplinary records Winnipeg’s Chief of Police essentially took the position that because criminals can apply to receive pardons after five years of criminal inactivity, police officers should be able to apply to have their disciplinary records expunged after five years as well.  I wrote a post at the time which stated in part:

Talk about lowering your level of expectations by comparing police officers to criminals.  Whatever happened to the principle of expecting the very best from police officers and holding police officers to a higher standard?  The Chief’s position on this is poorly thought out and just plain wrong.

The recent press release by RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson in response to the criminal conviction of two RCMP officers is a refreshing change when compared to the drivel being spouted by Winnipeg’s Chief.

Robinson stated:

We recognize that our members are held to a higher standard and we are proud of the hundreds of hard-working men and women providing highly professional police services to Manitoba communities. (emphasis added is mine)

That is how it should be!

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.

Unpuzzling the Mayor About Downtown Safety

Air Canada recently put out a directive to staff instructing them to no longer stay in downtown Winnipeg hotels citing safety concerns.  According to media reports, our Mayor is puzzled by this move.

The Mayor,  other politicians and special interest groups with a  vested interest in the downtown, have for years been perpetuating the illusion that the downtown area of Winnipeg is a safe place.

I suppose Air Canada’s refusal to ignore the facts is what is puzzling the Mayor.

The Crimestat Maps that follow depict the 8 types of crime tracked by Crimestat for the period for October 1st 2010 and October 1st 2011.  Map 1 shows the Portage South Community, Map 2 the Central Park Community, and Map 3 the Portage Ellice Community.  The maps (and statistic tables) for those 3 downtown communities show that in the previous calendar year there were 4 homicides,  111  muggings,  and 24 *  sexual assaults.

Map 1

                                                               South Portage Community

Map 2

                                                               Central Park Community

Map 3

Portage Ellice Community

Now let’s have a look at the St. James Industrial Community, where the Ar Canada staff will be staying.  This area  had no homicides in the last year, 6 muggings and 6 sexual assaults and a smattering of other property crime.

Map 4

                                                              St. James Industrial Community

If you are still puzzled Mr. Mayor why not go for a walk with the Chief of Police to Portage Avenue and Main Street, pull your collective heads out of the clouds and look what is happening on Portage Avenue.  Alternately have a close look at Crimestat and ‘visit’ some of the neighbourhoods in the downtown and the immediate north end and ask yourself how safe you would feel to live there.  And finally, do something about it.

Stop spewing the election time propaganda that policing and the safety of Winnipeg streets is a provincial problem.  It’s not.  It’s a City of Winnipeg problem.  It’s your problem and a Winnipeg Police problem.  Do your job and provide appropriate policy direction to the Police Service and hold them accountable to address the issue of crime on the streets of Winnipeg.

*  correction to original post

To Expunge or not Expunge

The Winnipeg Police Service is  requesting a change to the by law governing the retention of police discipline records.  Once approved by Council, disciplinary records will be expunged after five years of discipline free performance.

The Winnipeg Police Association has been pushing for such a change for some time.  What’s different about the current proposal is that it’s the  Winnipeg Police Service advocating for such a change.  The Winnipeg Police Association must have been in a position to use some leverage in order to persuade the Winnipeg Police Service to put forward this proposal.

Since the ruling in R. v. McNeil which required that the police turn over to the Crown disciplinary records for officers involved in criminal cases, police across the country have been attempting to find ways to avoid turning over such records.  In other words they have been looking for a sure-fire loop-hole.  Expunging police disciplinary records seems to be the answer.

The report submitted to EPC actually says that.

What is perhaps even more disturbing is the second portion of the proposed by law change that would require that an informal resolution process be considered in all disciplinary cases.  Cases handled informally would not generate an entry on a discipline record and therefore would never be subject to disclosure.  So the first part would expunge records that currently exist, and the second part would ensure few, if any, future entries on officers’ files.

To top it all off, according to a report in the Winnipeg Free  Press the Chief of Police is apparently taking the position that because criminals can apply for a pardon after 5 years it only makes sense that police officers should have their records expunged after 5 years as well.  Talk about lowering your level of expectations by comparing police officers to criminals.  Whatever happened to the principle of expecting the very best from police officers and holding police officers to a higher standard?  The Chief’s position on this is poorly thought out and just plain wrong.

It’s one thing for criminals to attempt to circumvent the intent of court rulings.  No surprises there.  We should, however, be entitled to expect more from our police.