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.

Mayor Sam Katz’s Irresponsible Comment Quoted at WPA Arbitration Hearing

On January 17th 2012 I wrote a post about Mayor Katz’s irresponsible comments to the media.

An  article by Bartley Kives quoted the mayor as saying  “I can guarantee none of us would do that job for what they  get paid”.  This quote was in reference to Winnipeg police officers.

In my original post I suggested that the comment was inappropriate, especially during a contract negotiation year, and that the mayor’s remark would likely be used by the Winnipeg Police  Association to bolster its argument for a hefty pay increase.  I highly doubt the Mayor would make such a comment in relation to an upcoming negotiation that involved his own personal  money as opposed to public money.

On January 31st  2012 I briefly attended the labour arbitration hearing between the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Police Association.

The day started with Keith Labossiere, the lawyer representing the Winnipeg Police Association, outlining for the panel, the reason why the Association believes its members  should receive an 11.5 % pay increase over two years.   Mr. Labossiere began his presentation by repeating the Mayor’s statement:

I can guarantee none of us would do that job for what they get paid”,  as the lead in for his argument.

Mr. Labossiere then launched into his presentation which gave me a real sense of  deja vu.  Having sat through many arbitrations previously I quickly realized the Association would be relying on the same arguments they have been using at arbitration hearings for the last decade.

I suppose, though, from the Association’s perspective, ‘why would you change your lure as long as the fish keep biting’.  The argument has worked reasonably well in the past.

The arbitration hearings are slated to continue  through  February 3rd 2012,  Millennium Room, Winnipeg Convention Centre and February 6th & 7th 2012,  Ambassador Room, Canad Inns Polo Park.

The hearings run from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. and are open to the public.

Will the Winnipeg Police Association’s Endorsement of The Mayor Become a Cost to Taxpayers?

Perhaps a better question would be, how much will it cost us and are we about to be “SAMMED” AGAIN?

During the 2010 civic election the Winnipeg Police Association endorsed Mayor Sam Katz.  The announcement that the WPA was endorsing the Mayor coincidentally came on the same day that the Mayor announced he was adding 58 additional police and 19 staff positions  to the Police Service complement.  The  timing was  no doubt a coincidence (not) but it’s  one of those coincidences that voters have come to expect when an incumbent is running for reelection.  

Whenever unions support politicians there is some expectation that there will be a return on their investment.   Sometimes it is  favourable legislation, sometimes it is the creation of more positions which result in a direct benefit, in this case an increase in union dues (77 positions translates into approximately $40,000.00 in union dues – not exactly chump change).   In Canada one does not necessarily think about politicians meeting in hotel rooms and receiving brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash (e.g.  Karlheinz Schreiber and  Brian Mulroney) as a common occurrence.  Usually, at least in the cases that come to public attention it is less brazen.  The fact remains that when politicians make deals in return for support in the form of an endorsement there is  usually some form of quid pro quo.  Something is given, something is received.  Politics is not a zero sum game and politicians and their supporters are not totally altruistic. The unfortunate thing is that the  residual losses required to offset the gains realized by the players (in this case the mayor and the union) are absorbed by the public.

The Winnipeg Police Association already received what many observers consider to be, at the very least, a “down payment” in return for their support – that being the addition of 77 dues paying union positions.

Further, the association has been advocating for years, without success,  to amend the Winnipeg Police Regulations to allow for discipline records to be expunged.  A  few months  ago the association received what could be viewed as a ‘second payment’.    This time it was in the form of favourable legislation resulting in a change to the police regulations as it related to the expunging of discipline records.

Will the Winnipeg Police Association be receiving anything else?

They just might.  In comments to the media the mayor said that police in Winnipeg are under paid and  is quoted as saying, “I can guarantee none of us would do that job for what they get paid”.   Well, perhaps the mayor wouldn’t (he has never struck me as police officer material), but I think many others would, as illustrated by the number of applicants for police positions.   That comment coming from the lips of the mayor during a year when the City will be negotiating a contract with the Winnipeg Police Association could be worth a few bucks to the association.

With negotiations now at a deadlock, arbitration is just around the corner.  I’m willing to wager (only with the approval of the Manitoba Lotteries Commission of course) that  the Association’s lawyers will be using the mayor’s quote as the centerpiece in their attempt to  justify a larger pay increase.

If that scenario were to play out and the arbitrator were to be persuaded to up the award  by, say, a quarter to a half per cent, what would that cost taxpayers?  Answer:  in the range of $375,000.00 to $750,000.00, and that would just be in the first year.  Wage awards, because they are cumulative, are gifts that keep on giving.

That begs the question:  was the mayor’s comment a naive shot from the hip,  a mere slip of the lip or did we just get SAMMED again?

Flaws in the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report- Part V

Winnipeg Police to issue an amended 2010 Annual Report

It wasn’t my intention at the outset that there would be this many parts to my original post on the flaws in the Winnipeg Police 2010 Annual Report ….. but as they say in policing, you go where the evidence takes you.

In response to the number of errors discovered in the 2010 Annual Report, the Winnipeg Police Service has announced that it will be reissuing the report (see press release below).  The question remains, however, how is it that the high-priced help at the Winnipeg Police Service did not spot these errors?  One can only conclude that due diligence, although promised, is not always delivered.

Until the amended report is issued the question of whether crime in Winnipeg went up or down in 2010, and by how much, remains unanswered.

  Thursday, January 12, 2012

WINNIPEG POLICE SERVICE 2010 ANNUAL REPORT ERRORS IDENTIFIED, AMENDMENT PENDING
The Winnipeg Police Service 2010 Annual Report was made available to the public on December 28th, 2011. Following its release a statistical error come to light that will result in the Service releasing an amended version of our 2010 Annual Report.
The amendments will require a change to the Criminal Code Offences by Month Chart and the Total Criminal Code Offences Chart. Once this work is completed, we will update the charts in question, add footnotes in our Annual Report to clearly explain the changes and advise the public when the updated Report is available.
Background:
This year, effort was undertaken to ensure the manner in which we report statistics is consistent with Statistics Canada reporting through its Police Reported Crime Statistics in Canada 2010 Report.
In 2009, Statistics Canada had amended some of its reported crime categories. This impacts on how we report crime statistics as well.
As a result, the Service introduced a new “Not District Specific” category for reported crimes.
Crimes that appear under this column may include incidents where the crimes occurred over multiple districts. This category also includes incidents where a division, location or area was not identified due to data entry error or would be classified as “City at Large” incidents.  An example of such a City at Large incident would be a stolen license plate.
This change ensures greater consistency between our reported numbers and the numbers reported by Statistics Canada.   
 
The creation of this category resulted in an unusually high number of Theft – Over $5,000 and Theft – $5,000 and Under being reported as “Not District Specific”.
We recently learned this may have resulted from an unidentified programming anomaly that we believe resulted from the creation of a new reporting code.
Representatives from both the Winnipeg Police Service and Statistics Canada are working to resolve this matter. We will update the public as soon as this matter is resolved.
Percentage Change Errors
 
The Total and Grand Total data that initially appeared in the 2010 Annual Report reflected a month-to-month percentage change. The pending revision will show the correct year-over-year percentage change calculations.
We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

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

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Flaws in the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report – Part IV

There are a lot of parts to this fiasco and I don’t think it’s quite finished yet.

This post presents a table that provides a 2009/2010 side by side comparison of many of the statistic categories in the Winnipeg Police Annual Report.  The table was created for informational purposes but I will comment on several of the categories.

1.  Police to Population Ratio

In the 2009 Annual Report the “authorized” police complement was used (674,800/1348) to calculate the ratio at 1:501.  The 2010 Annual  Report used the “actual” police complement (684,061/1400) with a resulting ratio of 1:488.  Had the actual complement been used in 2009 the ratio would have been 1:478 and had the authorized complement been used in 2010, the ratio would have been 1:503.

When calculating ratios that are carried forward from year to year for comparison purposes it is important to apply the same rules from year to year.  If the approach is changed a note should be attached to identify the change, and the purpose of the change.

2. Police to Staff Ratio

The Winnipeg Police Service police to staff ratio has lagged behind that of other major Canadian Police Departments for years and is an issue that needs to be addressed.  The 9% increase in 2010 seems to address the issue to a degree.  What the report does not indicate is what portion of that change reflects the addition of the new staff category of Cadets.  The addition of this new employee category should have been noted in the report.

3.  Total Crimes

No matter how you cut it, the 2010 Annual Report lists 61,680 reported crimes  compared to 56,427 in 2009.  That works out to a 9% increase according to the ‘rithmatic.  Note thus far that only the English version of the report has been released – the French version has yet to be released.

4. Persons Charged and Clearance Rate

The number of persons charged dropped from 16,525 in 2009 to 13,604 in 2010 representing a decrease of 18%.  The clearance rate, though, is shown as increasing by 1% from 24 to 25 from 2009 to 2010.  That may bear some closer examination since, generally, there is a correlation between the number of persons charged and the clearance rate .

Category

2009

2010

Variance 2009-2010   (%)

Demographics/Cost
Population

674,800

684,061

+1%

Events for Service

162,349

162,678

No change*

Police to Population Ratio

1:501

1:488

-3%

Operating Budget
Tax Supported Expenses

$181,837,268.00

$191,542,030.00

+5%

Per Capita Cost

$269.47

$280.00

+4%

STAFFING
Sworn Officers (Authorized)

1348

1361

No change*

Sworn Officers (Actual)

1411

1400

No change*

Non-sworn Staff (Authorized)

368

371

No change*

Non-Sworn Staff (Actual)

413

450

+9%

Male Officers

1213

1200

No change*

Female Officers

198

200

No change*

CRIMINAL CODE OFFENCES
Against Persons

10,698

10,432

-3%

Against Property

40,907

46,540

+14%

Other Crimes

4822

4708

-2%

Total Crimes

56,427

61,680

+9%

Persons Charged

16,525

13,604

-18%

Clearance Rate

24%

25%

+1%

 TRAFFIC ACT OFFENCES
Police Issued

53,245

58,600

+10%

Photo Radar

110,658

96,594

-15%

Offence Notices Total

163,903

155,194

-6%

Fatalities

13

20

+54%

PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS UNIT
Criminal Files Initiated

28

25

 -11%***

Criminal Files Sustained

0

0

No change

Regulatory Files Initiated

24

24

No change*

Regulatory Files Sustained

1

2

+100%**

Data Source – Winnipeg Police Service 2009 and 2010 Annual Reports

*  no change means the variance was less than 1%

** when the numbers are small a large percentage change has limited meaning in a statistical sense

*** correction from original version of this post

For the most part this post concludes my examination of the statistical portion of the 2010 Annual Report with a caveat.  A new category “Multiple Districts” was added to the  Highway Traffic Act Offences (by District) table.   As with the other new categories introduced in the 2010 Annual Report, there is no note to describe the change.

Flaws in the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report – Part III

This post will examine the “Events for Service” statistics listed in the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report.

As the table below indicates, in 2009 there were 162,394 events.  In 2010 there were 162,678.  The difference is so marginal that in percentage terms it is correctly listed as zero.

The variances in the number of events for service in the 5 Districts are listed as between -3 and -10 percent.  This raises the question:  If the actual city-wide calls for service were essentially static then how is it possible that each District would show a reduction?

The culprit again is the new unexplained category ‘Not District Specific” introduced in 2010.  This category which consists of 7748 events when added to the 2010 District numbers produces a variance of zero as opposed to the listed 3 to 10 per cent decrease.  Again, another error.

2009

2010

Variance shown in 2010 Annual Report

District 1

45,483

43,756

-4%

District 2

17,443

15,641

-10%

District 3

40,106

38,349

-4%

East District

36,106

35,197

-3%

District 6

23,256

21987

-5%

Non District Specific

did not exist in 2009

7748

Total City Wide

162,394

162,678

0%

Data Source:  2009 and 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Reports

Based on the response I have received to these recent postings, there is significant interest in what will hopefully be a response in the near future from the Winnipeg Police Service as to why the “Not District Specific” category was introduced, or what it represents.

Flaws in the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report – Part II

Dealing with the 9549 crimes listed as “Not District Specific”. 

In the previous post I discussed some of the major issues with the 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report.  They included the addition of two new statistical categories: one in the “Criminal Code by District  Table (Not District Specific)”, and in the “Criminal Code Offences by Month Table (Undertermined)” – small matter that the latter word is misspelled in the report.  As it turns out, the most glaring aspect of the report is in the math: crunch the city-wide crime numbers  as they are shown and compare 2010 to 2009 and you will come up with a 9 percent increase in crime as opposed to the 7 percent decrease that the Annual Report states.  What?!

What originally caused me to take a closer look at the numbers was the apparent disparity between the reported reduction at the district level (see column 1) .  The District numbers show reductions in the range of 20-30 percent and yet the city-wide reduction was listed as -7%.  Something’s wrong here.

The next step was to do the actual calculations using the District and city-wide data as listed in the 2009 and 2010 Annual Reports.  The results of those calculations are listed in column 2.  There is a significant disparity between the two columns – at this point I’m ready to suggest that the Police Service  pull the 2010 Annual Report off the website, scrap the whole mess and start over.

Another reason to start over:  Let’s look at the reported crimes listed under the new category of “Not District Specific”.  Without the help of an explanation, one is left to assume these are reported crimes in addition to those listed under the five Districts (when you add the numbers listed for the 5 districts and then add 9,549 from the “Not District Specific” category you arrive at 61,680 – the numbers listed in the 2010 Annual Report as the total number of crimes reported city-wide).

Although these  9549 crimes would be disproportionately distributed  (ie District 1 would have more than District 2),  for the purpose of the table below column 3 represents the percentage crime rate change if the “Not District Specific” crimes were equally distributed throughout the five districts).

Area

Column 1

As Reported*

Column 2

Actual**

Column 3

Projected***

City wide

-7

-8

+9

District 1

-20

-10

+4

District 2

-32

-14

+16

District 3

-23

-5

+10

East   District

-25

-7

+7

District 6

-26

-8

+13

*    These are the percentages as listed in the 2010 Winnipeg police Annual Report.

**  These are the percentages arrived at when you crunch the raw data in the 2009 and 2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Reports excluding the 9549 offences listed under “Not District Specific”.

*** These are the percentages when you factor in the 9,549 incidents listed in the “Not District Specific ” and evenly distribute them within the 5 Districts.

At this point I am not certain if the statistical wizards within the Winnipeg Police Service did a double count of some incidents or simply out smarted themselves with the introduction of the new categories.  I suppose the only way to find out is to ask.

I sent the following email to the Winnipeg Police  Service:

I have now had the opportunity to have a quick look at portions of the 2010 Annual Report and I have a few questions:

1.  The Criminal Code Offences by District table has a new column titled “Not District Specific” added.  Why was this column created? How are offences determined to be “not district specific”?  How are not district specific offences handled in terms of plotting them on Crimestat?

2.  The temporal table also had a column added under the heading “undertermined”.  I assume this was meant to say “undetermined” . Why was this column added?  How, for example, can there be 7,707 thefts in this category?  Does the WPS not require the complainant to provide dates in terms of when the offence took place?

3.  The 2010 Annual Report shows 61,680 as being the number of total criminal code offences reported to police and shows this to be a 7% reduction over 2009.   The 2009 Annual Report showed 56,427 .  Based on those two figures how was the 7% reduction calculated?

Thank you for your help.

I’m hoping to get a response in a more timely fashion than the release of the Annual Report – almost a year after the fact.  When (or if) I receive a response I will post it because this is important enough that it demands an answer.