Chief of Police or Chief Apologist

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

images

download

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

**********************************************************************

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.

Advertisements

Don’t Like the Gurkha, so sell it.

tumblr_n0btf9bNv71skc89yo1_500

 

 

I have observed the discussion about the Winnipeg Police purchase of the Gurkha armoured vehicle with both amusement and concern:  Amusement because all the usual suspects, those being sociologists, and the media have  neatly filed into place and have said exactly what they would be expected to say:

1) that this is another step forward in the militarization of the police;

2) that  the process was flawed and lacked public input and transparency;

3) that  the Police Service pulled a fast one on the Police Board;

4) that the operational need for an armoured vehicle has not been justified;

5) that it is too costly.

 

And concern, because the Police Service has done a poor job of providing background information and justification for the purchase.

One might ask the question: Where were all these people who have concerns about militarization and costs  when the Police Service launched its air force?

I agree that in a day and age where Police Boards provide oversight of police departments, the process used to acquire this piece of equipment was perhaps less than politically astute.  The result is that the Police Service has lost the ability to make purchases of this type in the future.

As well, I have yet to hear any really sound arguments being made by the Police Service other than in general terms as to how this piece of equipment will add value.  The Police Service was probably caught flat-footed on this one because they had no intention of this becoming a public discussion at this point in time.  There probably is a communications strategy in the process of being developed to deal with this issue and justify the purchase but I’m surmising it was not intended to be used until some point in the future, so it was not fully developed and ready to go at this point in time.  They should however have anticipated that the purchase of an item such as the Gurhka could not be kept under wraps indefinitely and been better prepared to deal with it when the information became public.

All that being said the question remains, can this purchase be justified as an operational need?

As a former police officer, I am personally aware of discussions for the need of an armoured vehicle that go back 30 years – long before ‘militarization’ had become a buzz word.  The situation that gave rise to the discussions was an armed and barricaded scenario in St. Boniface where a man shot his entire family and then barricaded himself in a house, armed.  Police were faced with a situation where a young child had been shot but was still alive, laying in the front yard with no means to safely perform a rescue.  Since that  incident there have been many others, perhaps not as dramatic but still of a nature where some form of armoured vehicle would have served a very useful purpose.

I would suggest that if the Police Service scratch its collective memory they could provide a long list of scenarios that would justify the need for an armoured vehicle even in the minds of the most jaded opponents.

In terms of cost, although $350,000.00 seems like a big number when amortized over the predicated useful life of such a purchase, it amounts to less than $20,000.00 a year.

Deployment

Although I personally do not support carte blanche  militarization of policing I do support the purchase of military type equipment in situations where the need can be justified for operational reasons.The devil as always  will be in the details.  The manner in which this piece of equipment will be deployed will show the intent of the Police Service and could go a long way to silence the critics.  If it is rolled out willy nilly, however, the police will run the risk of losing public support.  It should be used in situations where its use can be operationally justified.

Political Will

If this is really seen by the Police Board, the Mayor, or City Councillors as an example of the police overstepping their authority and acquiring a piece of equipment that either the police don’t need or that they philosophically disagree with, let them step forward and justify their position and then sell the damn thing (I dare you).  There is a market out there for these types of vehicles.

 

 

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.

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police Part – V

Several years ago the Winnipeg Police Service (read Mayor Katz) decided that Winnipeg needed (read wanted) a helicopter.  At that time  I wrote a series of posts commenting on the decision-making process employed to determine whether the police service should acquire a helicopter,  as well as the nuts and bolts of running a flight operations unit.

Links to the previous posts are listed here:

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part I

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part II

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police Part – III

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police Part – IV

Selling Helicopters Not Naming Rights

Can a Police Helicopter Make Pursuits Safer

The Winnipeg Police Service recently issued the 2012  Flight Operations Unit Annual Report.

It is of some interest to note that the Flight Operations Unit is the only unit within the Police Service that issues an in-depth annual report,  separate and apart from the normal Winnipeg Police Service Annual Report.   Perhaps this is a forerunner of other unit annual reports to come.   I’m being facetious of course.

The only reason the Flight Operations Unit issues a stand alone annual report is to justify the initial capital and subsequent  ongoing operational expenditures of the unit.  The real purpose of the report is to demonstrate that the original decision to purchase a helicopter was a good one.

Although I have not dissected the report in detail I have noticed a number of interesting points.

When the helicopter idea was being ‘sold’ to the public,  politicians and police officials talked about the helicopter being in the air 4 to 5 hours a day.  The 2012 reports shows 2.7 hours of flight time per day.

One of the primary reasons originally cited for acquiring a  helicopter,  was  to deal with Winnipeg’s ongoing problem of auto theft.  A helicopter it was argued would be very beneficial in terms of discouraging auto theft and, in cases where cars had been stolen,  tracking stolen vehicles on the road and assisting in the arrest of auto thieves.

In a previous post I argued that if the Police Service operated a helicopter it would only be available to assist in approximately 12% of stolen car chases.  At the time, some questioned my calculations and subsequent estimate.  Turns out I did indeed miscalculated…. by 2%.     In 2012 the police helicopter was available to assist in a total of 5 pursuits which works out to  just under 14% of the total number of car chases that took place.

And what happened to the promise in terms of the positive effect a helicopter would have on auto theft rates in Winnipeg?  In  the last 12 months auto theft has gone up 10%, this during a period that the Flight Operations Unit was up and running.  This comes on the heels of many years of double-digit declines  thanks to the Auto Theft strategy.

And things are not looking better for 2013.  Although the numbers are still small this early in the  year, the rate of auto theft in Winnipeg climbed 23% so far this year when compared to the same period last year.

Also of interest is the cost per “arrest” in which the helicopter played a role.  Based strictly on the operating budget the Unit spent $1,327,950.00 in 2012.  Based on that figure the cost per arrest that the unit  ‘assisted‘ with  is in the range of $7200.00.  If, however, the capital depreciation cost of the  helicopter is factored in then the cost of operating the unit is more in the range of $ 1, 727,590.00 and the cost per arrest jumps to $9300.00. *

Contrast that with the cost and the results generated by the  Warrant Apprehension Unit.  They also get bad guys off the street – not by ‘assisting’  or being in the vicinity but by actually going out into the street, and doing investigations and apprehensions.  The cost of that unit is in the range of $ .8 million and with an arrest rate of approximately 800 per year, the cost per arrest is in the range of $1000.00, a far cry from $9300.00.

Were an additional $1,727,590.00 allocated to the Warrant Apprehension Unit  at $1000.00 a head they could have arrested an additional 1700 criminals.  That would be a somewhat better return on the dollar than the 285 arrests the Flight Operations Unit  ‘assisted’ with.

*  I’m not suggesting that the number of arrests should be the only criteria used to measure the performance of the Unit.  However,  based on the fact that all but one of the anecdotal examples of Unit activities cited in the report involve arrests,  it is obvious that the Winnipeg Police Service sees this as one of the primary, if not the prime function of the Unit.

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.

January 2012 Crime Data

January 2012 Crime Statistics for Winnipeg  (for crimes tracked by Crimestat)

Crime Type Year-to-Date Comparison Selected Filter Comparison
Jan 1, 2012
To
Feb 4, 2012
Jan 1, 2011
To
Feb 4, 2011
% Change Jan 1, 2012
To
Jan 31, 2012
Jan 1, 2011
To
Jan 31, 2011
% Change
 Break & Enters – Commercial
85 63 35% 79 51 55%
 Break & Enters – Other
83 62 34% 81 61 33%
 Break & Enters – Residential
186 188 -1% 167 155 8%
 Homicide
1 3 -67% 1 3 -67%
 Robbery – Commercial/Financial
22 39 -44% 19 38 -50%
 Robbery – Non-Commercial/Financial
131 110 19% 122 97 26%
 Sexual Assault
11 18 -39% 10 18 -44%
 Shooting
6 2 200% 6 2 200%
 Theft Motor Vehicle – Actual
85 161 -47% 72 144 -50%
 Theft Motor Vehicle – Attempt Only
49 129 -62% 46 114 -60%
Total 659 775 -15% 603 683 -12%

Source:  Winnipeg Police Crimestat Website

Highlights

1.  City wide crime (for crimes tracked by Crimest) is down 12%.  Districts 2, 3 and the East District  show reductions, Districts 1 and 6 show increases.

2.  The Auto Theft Strategy (perhaps the only true evidence based initiative the WPS is using) continues to show impressive results in terms of crime reduction.

3.  When the auto theft category (actual and attempt)  is removed,  crime (for crimes tracked by Crimestat) is up 14% city-wide.

2.  Muggings are up 26%.

3.  Commercial robberies are down 50%.

4.  All three categories of break-ins are up between 8 and 55%.