Election Promises: Part I

During the recent election campaign Sam Katz made a number of promises ranging from pop bottle recycling, additional monies for community centers, and of course, more money for policing.

This will be the first in a series of posts that will examine the policing/community safety commitments made by the mayor during the 2010 election campaign, those being:  the addition of  20 officers for beat patrol; 18 officers for general patrol;  20 officers for a gang unit; and 19 civilian positions for the 911 call center.

Subsequent posts in this series will provide some history in terms of police initiatives and practices as they relate to foot patrols, general patrol and the gang unit.

Putting Additional Officers on the Street

Screening, hiring, training and putting police officers on the street is a long and arduous task.  The majority of the 58 additional police officers promised by the mayor will not be fully trained and ready for street duty until  late 2011 or early 2012.  The next Recruit Training Class is not slated to start until August of 2011, just 2 months prior to the next provincial election.

In light of the fact that the Police Service has more than a year of lead time, they  have an opportunity to give some serious thought to the assignment, priorities and job descriptions for these additional officers.  That’s assuming that the decision as to their deployment will be based on operational needs as opposed to political whims.  Should the gang unit be launched  first, or should the foot patrol officers or the additional general patrol officers take precedence?  Only the Service (or the mayor) will answer those questions.

The decision, whatever it is, will signal whether the Service is going to stay the course in terms of using a largely reactive approach or whether they are ready to embark on a more proactive approach to dealing with crime in this city.

Part II will start by examining the Winnipeg Foot Patrol experience from around 1970 onward and provide backdrop for the decision-making process concerning the assignment of the new foot patrol positions.

Couldn’t Put Humpty Together Again…..

And so it came to pass, that  summer followed spring and crime and violence in the north end of Winnipeg flared up again.  This is a surprise?  Humpty is broken again.  

The William Whyte community and surrounding communities have seen spikes in violence during the summer months for some years now.  That is the reality of north end Winnipeg. 

The next step of course is to fix Humpty.  How do you do that?  That’s simple; you assign all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put Humpty together again.  And if they can’t put Humpty together again, then what do you do?  That is simple as well: just get more horses and more men, right?  Well, that seems to be the police response in Winnipeg. 

Assigning large numbers of police officers to trouble areas seems to be the standard response in this city.  In and of itself that is not a bad short term strategy, but only if it is paralleled by a long term strategy that addresses the issues that caused the problem.  In the short term, reactive policing may be a necessity to stabilize communities.  However, rushing in large numbers of resources to quell violent spikes in communities is not sustainable.  In order to fix Humpty in the long term, more horses and more men are not the answer.  

What is needed in the north end is a long term far sighted strategy to deal with the underlying issues.  The police service tends to fixate on short term efforts that yield impressive short term outputs and quick political gains. Recently the police service did a crack down in the north end and trumpeted the number of arrests that were made and the quantity of contraband that was seized.  Is this going to fix the problem in the north end?  Will this put humpty together again?