Political Interference in Police Investigations

We are so lucky to be living in Winnipeg!

In Winnipeg we can count on pictures in the media of the Chief of Police and the Mayor grinning like… well you know.

Things are different in  Miami Florida where Miguel Esposito the chief of police,  has accused Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado of  interference in police operations.  There are few grins to be had in Miami.

(Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald)

Exposito is alleging that the mayor interfered with a gambling enforcement operation and accused the mayor of going beyond the legal bounds of his office.

The hostilities between the mayor and the chief  stem from the Mayor’s support for an ordinance regulating coin operated machines that can be used for illegal gambling.

The machines in question could generate as much as $750,000.00 for the city annually.

This very public dispute between the mayor and the chief of police has a predictable conclusion.  The mayor will fire the chief and hire a chief whose views on gambling align more closely with those of the mayor’s.

We are so lucky we live in Winnipeg.

We have a mayor who just recently stated that he has NEVER interfered with police operations and is not planning to do so – at least, in his words, not right now.

Oh what a relief it is.

Stadium Funding Debate Sparks “Gun-play”

Who is really being childish here?

In a move described by Councillor Russ Wyatt as “having a gun stuck to your head”, the Mayor attempted to ‘walk’ stadium funding onto the city council agenda.  Such a move requires a suspension of the rules.  Wyatt and five other councillors decided not to simply roll over on the issue and notified the Speaker they would not support a suspension of the rules.

This left the Mayor with two options:  put the issue on the agenda for the next council meeting, or call a special meeting.

Councillor Justin Swandel has characterized the move by Councillor Wyatt and the other councillors as a childish stunt.

This prompts questions:

If the exercise of their rights by councillors is viewed as a stunt, then why not change the rules so that the Mayor and Councillor Swandel can walk anything onto the agenda at any time?

Why do the Mayor and Councillor Swandel view this attempt to promote transparency and accountability for public spending as a negative?

Has the obvious lack of due diligence, cost guesstimates and flawed decision-making not already created a large enough mess?  The big hole in the ground at the University of Manitoba says that it has.

Is it not time that someone actually sat down and gave this entire project some sober second thought without rushing it through?

Some of the techniques being employed by the Mayor are very similar to those used by  scam artists: create a sense of urgency, rush the decision, decide right now because time is of the essence, act right now or the price will go up.   Never mind providing the required information to allow proper study and evaluation – just trust me and you can’t tell anyone else about this.   Sound familiar?  It seems the public was already scammed once on the stadium deal.  Should we throw good money after bad money?

Exercising his rights, the Mayor called a special meeting of City Council (not to be confused with a childish stunt) and pushed stadium funding through.    The mayor and his buddies got their way, just a day late.

Due process must be such a downer – especially for politicians with dictatorial tendencies.

 

The Sam’s Union Dues

In response to “Judy’s Union Dues”

The Sunday, October 17th edition of the Winnipeg Sun ran a piece titled “Judy’s Union Dues”, commenting on CUPE support for Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

It states in part:”It’s business, really. Unions are in the business of getting the most money for their members as possible and the best job security regardless of the taxpayers’ ability to pay”.  It goes on to say, “So obviously they’re going to work for Judy and any other city council candidate that pledges their allegiance to the brotherhood”.

What is conspicuously absent in the article is any reference to two other large civic unions, the Winnipeg Police Association and the United Firefighters of Winnipeg.  Both have come out and endorsed The Sam and are working to see him get re-elected.

Should we assume that their motives are different than those of CUPE?  Should we assume that their mandate is not to get the very best possible compensation package and job security for their members quite apart from the city’s ability to pay?  And should we assume that as they are endorsing and working for The Sam, that The Sam has pledged his allegiance to their ‘brotherhood’?

I think perhaps no to the first and yes to the second assumption would be the correct answer.

The Sam is the Man?

Based on the full-page ad that ‘The Sam’ purchased in the Saturday, October 16th edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, THE SAM must be quite the guy.

Apart from being mayor, it appears that sometime between 2004 and the present he also became the Chief of Police.   The Sam did not just support the efforts of the Winnipeg Police Service, MPI, Manitoba Justice and the other partners involved in initiation of the Auto Theft Suppression Strategy (which has been a local success story in terms of reducing auto theft in Winnipeg).  According to the advertisement, The Sam, all on his own, “Reduced auto theft by 74% since 2004”. Now that’s quite a feat.  Way to go Sam.

And it does not end there.  The Sam in the role as ‘Chief of Police’  “Purchased a police Helicopter to free up on-ground resources”. Actually The Sam didn’t purchase anything.  The Sam used Winnipeg taxpayers money (to the tune of 3.1 million dollars) and an additional 1.3 million dollars in annual operating cost (funded by the province) to pad his resume for this election.  Notice that the anticipated outcomes related to the helicopter are very limited and understated.  The advertisement claims only that a helicopter will “free up on-ground resources”.  It does not indicate the degree to which on-ground resources will be freed up.  More importantly it does not claim that a helicopter will reduce crime, probably because it can’t be proven that it indeed will.

The Sam’s crime fighting efforts don’t end there.  During lulls in criminal activity the Sam in his assumed role as the Chief of Police “Implemented the Mobile Street Crimes Unit and full time Tactical Unit to fight crime”.  (I’m assuming that if there is a mobile Street Crimes Unit then there must also be a stationary Street Crimes Unit which no doubt is being kept in reserve for ‘mobilization’ when crime really gets bad in Winnipeg.)

Don’t go away now.  There is more.  Just recently The Sam, according to his re-election advertisement, “Implemented the new police cadet program to free up police to arrest criminals”.

It seems that other than single handedly bringing auto theft to its knees between 2004 and the present, many of The Sam’s ‘accomplishments’ are recent and in several cases have not yet come to fruition.  The timing of the implementation of several of the ‘accomplishments’ was no doubt intended to coincide with the election; unfortunately for The Sam they are behind schedule so there will be not pictures of The Sam taking an expensive ride in a police helicopter at taxpayers’ expense and no pictures of The Sam going for a walk with police cadets.

Perhaps what is really interesting is not only what The Sam did or claims to have done but the list of things he (or the Police Service) did that he fails to mention.

The things he did not mention and The Sam’s Plan for the future will be the subject of another post.

Investigation of Complaints Against Police Officers

B.C. Chief takes the lead.

In a move that demonstrates vision, foresight, and a true commitment to openness and accountability Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu is urging the British Columbia  government to expand the investigative mandate of the proposed civilian oversight agency.

As it now stands the proposed agency would only investigate in custody deaths and incidents that result in severe injury.  Based on past experience Chief Chu estimates that the proposed agency’s current mandate would limit its investigations to an average of 4 annually in relation to the Vancouver police.

Although Chu feels that the Vancouver Police are fully capable of conducting competent and unbiased investigations internally,  his suggestion is a recognition that with issues such as the police investigating themselves,  perception is reality.  Investigation by an external body would remove the perception of bias.

Winnipeg Police Association Endorses Sam

Buying the Union Vote

I’m sure Sam is grinning from ear to ear – now that he (the conservative candidate and not Judy WL) has the endorsement of the Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) the union that represents Winnipeg police officers and staff members.  Unions traditionally support candidates with a labour background – but not the WPA.

The Winnipeg Police Association is a different sort of union.  With the vast majority of its members being police officers (the WPA also represents the staff sector), there is nothing left leaning or labour oriented about its membership.  Police officers tend to be conservative in their values and political orientation.  It comes with the job.  The WPA is largely a union in the same sense that the NHL Players Association is a union.  The ‘union’ is a vehicle that allows them to bargain collectively – no more and no less and that is where their unionism ends.

So how did Sam ‘buy’ the support of the union that isn’t really a union?  Largely by promising to increase their membership.   Do the math: unions are funded through union dues.  More members mean more money in union coffers.  In this case the addition of 77 members represents additional cash flow into the WPA coffers in the amount of approximately 30 to 40 thousand dollars a year.

The WPA is apparently prepared to enter into this unseemly arrangement in return for more money and more power.

Sounds cynical?

The fact is, Sam has got this one figured out at least in the short-term and right now I don’t think Sam is thinking much past October 27th 2010.   In the long-term, the more powerful a union becomes, the more potent  an adversary it will be  when it’s time for collective bargaining.

In the event Sam is re-elected the time will come when WPA will call in its chips and remind the mayor “We endorsed you”.   When that happens, the old adage of ‘pay me now or pay me later’ may well change to ‘pay me now and pay me later’.

At this point it is not known whether the mayor sought the political endorsement of the WPA and the union agreed, or whether the union proposed the endorsement and the mayor accepted it.   But it really doesn’t matter who courted whom because in an ethical sense, both sides in this questionable arrangement are on the precipice, if not the downside, of the proverbial slippery slope.

Honesty and Trust No Longer Winnipeg Police Core Values

Commitment to Excellence also eliminated as  a core value

Although the changes may not  be readily obvious to the public in terms of how the Winnipeg Police Service operates, the Service made the decision to alter its Vision and Mission statements  a few months ago.  At the same time, the core values of the organization were changed.

The core values of an organization are intended to be fundamental values that serve as reference points for operational decision making on the street and administrative decision making at the executive level.

The following core values have been eliminated:

  • Honesty – Being truthful and open in our interactions with each other and the citizens we serve
  • Trust – Being honourable and maintaining a high level of trust with each other and the members of our community
  • Commitment to Excellence – Adhering to a strict standard of conduct and performance in everything we do

The core values that were nominally retained are integrity, respect and accountability although the definitions applied to the terms have been altered.

Added as  core values are:

  • Citizen Focus – Conducting ourselves in a professional manner at all times, showing pride in service and commitment to serve the greater good.
  • Courage – Serving on the street and in leadership roles, being ready to make tough decisions to valiantly protect people and their property

The mission statement has also changed.  The new Mission Statement for the Winnipeg Police Service is as follows:

As members of the Winnipeg Police Service , we are committed to making Winnipeg safer by:

  • Performing our duties with integrity, compassion and respect,
  • Building strong, trusting relationships with the community because we can’t do it all alone,
  • Enhancing our effectiveness so we can be there when we’re needed the most, and
  • Finding innovative ways of delivering our services.

Lastly the Service’s vision statement has been changed.  The vision now is:

A safer community, built on strong, trusting relationships

Reactions from within the Service are mixed and varied ranging from indifference to complaints that the process used to establish the new vision,  mission and values was exclusionary and did not allow for street level input (constables and sergeants).  Some within the Service also suggest that the `building relationships` phrase is getting a little tired.  Poorly defined terms, especially when overused, risk losing their meaning and credibility.  There is a difference between a slogan and a philosophy and in this case that difference has never been convincingly established.

Changes to an organization`s vision, mission and values are usually a precursor to the development and unveiling of a comprehensive strategic plan.  Such a plan would generally include goals, strategies and measurable performance indicators.  It is not known if the Winnipeg Police Service  developed strategies and performance indicators.  If they have not, then the vision and mission statements are essentially meaningless.

For an example of a well developed strategic plan visit the Vancouver Police website at :

http://vancouver.ca/police/assets/pdf/vpd-strategic-plan-2008-2012.pdf