Police Staffing Through Election Promises

Election promises at both the civic and provincial level have become the defining vehicle in terms of determining police staffing.

Announcing proposed increases to police funding at election time is not a new thing.  In the mid 1990’s the Filmon government made the first foray into this area by announcing that the Province would provide funding to expand the complement of the Winnipeg Police Service by 24 positions.  This was a purely political decision made at the Provincial level without any prior consultation with the Winnipeg Police Service.  As a matter of fact the Chief of the day was advised on the morning  the announcement was made and asked to attend the announcement to serve as ‘wallpaper’ for the Premier’s announcement.  The Chief of course, not wanting to ‘look a gift horse in the mouth’,  attended and came away with an additional 2 million dollars for the police budget.

Over the years, announcing police funding increases at election time has become the norm.  It has proven to be a sure-fire way to attract votes and win elections.

During the last civic election the Mayor used the same tactic.  Mayor Katz pledged increases to both police and civilian staff and was endorsed by the Winnipeg Police Association (WPA).  Some argued that the WPA  endorsement was contingent on the commitment to increase police and staff positions while others believed the increase in staffing to be contingent on the WPA endorsement.  Others insisted that the two issues were unrelated and the fact that the Mayor announced the staffing increase at the same time as the WPA endorsed the mayor was purely a coincidence.

As the current provincial election campaign gains traction it is interesting to see the bidding war that is developing as the two main contenders attempt to outbid each other (using our money) on the policing and law and order issue.

One of the major problems with politically motivated spending on policing is that additional money (positions) are allocated not by the police service but rather by the politicians to coincide with their current political priorities.

But that’s only partially the politicians fault.  Blame must also be placed with the police executives.

In the absence of a well laid out policing and crime deduction strategy with specific goals and costs attached, politicians jump into the fray and set the agenda.  To a degree they are simply filling a vacuum created by the lack of strategic operational leadership within policing.

As I have said before, what should be happening in terms of policing, crime reduction and police staffing is that politicians should clearly state their goals to police in terms of what they want accomplished, ie a percentage crime reduction across the board or in specific offence categories.

Police executives should devise a plan complete with broad goals, strategies and tactics that would be employed to accomplish the stated goals along with an  outline of specific areas of responsibility within the police service.  Such a plan would be accompanied with a price tag in terms of additional resources that would be required in terms of increase in personnel and other costs.

Once such a plan was developed politicians could decide if that is was they want and whether they want to fund it or not.  If the plan is adopted and funded,  accountability then exists between the police and the elected officials.

Until this happens we will continue to see money spent haphazardly, at election time, based on the political priorities of the day.

Sam Katz’s Latest Revenue Generating Plan

As a preface, if there is evidence that shows a traffic safety issue involving child safety in or near schools exits, it should be addressed.

When proposals on issues such as speed limits in school zones are brought forward by police the motivation is usually safety.  The same cannot necessarily be said when such proposals originate with politicians.  When politicians make such proposals, safety may be used as a facade to deflect the attention from the real objective which is often increased revenue.

Such may be the case with Sam Katz’s latest foray into “child safety”.

If this was a police initiative it would no doubt be backed by  statistics about speeding in school zones, accidents in school zones, and injuries to children caused by speeding.  If police suggested  a change to the speed limits in school zones,  politicians would demand such data to back up that position.

Sam’s proposal contains none of that.  No facts, no data.  Operational decisions are based on data, political decisions are based on politics.

At this point we don’t know if speeding in school zones is a major issue that requires a change in legislation.  The data (if it exists) has not been shared. What we do know is that the proposed change in legislation requires action by the province.  What better time to bring up what is on the surface  a ‘motherhood and apple pie’  issue than during an election campaign.  What provincial politician would want to be painted as being against protecting children?  None that I know of in Manitoba.

At this point we don’t know whether safety in school zones is a bona fide issue, but what we do know is that Sam’s timing is strategically impeccable.

As well, photo radar revenue which has been static or perhaps even declining after the construction zone cash cow was milked dry over the past several years, would receive a huge, if short-term boost as drivers adjust to the new speed limits.

If the speed limit in school zones is reduced I predict a lot of “flashes” at 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM on weekends and during weekends and summer holidays as the mobile photo radar units are deployed close to  elementary schools in residential communities.   There is potential for revenue even if there are no kids around (the safety issues it is supposedly designed to address).

Even if there are no kids around the schools during the early morning or late evening hours on weekends or during the holidays, the photo radar cameras don’t know that (although presumably the operators do).  The city’s ‘money printing machines’ ( photo radar units) will be on overtime if this proposed change becomes reality – and all in the name of protecting children.

I think we are about to be “Sammed” again.

Helicopters, Lasers and the Media

The recent reaction by Winnipeg Police to the actions of an idiot (and that is being kind) shining a laser beam at the police helicopter is an example of a poorly conceived media strategy.

The incident, although deadly serious and with grave potential for serious consequences for the helicopter crew, is of the type that is best dealt with in a low-key manner.

By expressing such immediate and public outrage at the incident, the police are exposing their raw nerves to other potential fools.   An isolated incident that could have been effectively dealt with and without fanfare has instead resulted in a media furor – one that has spun out of the control and out of the hands of police.   It has grown legs.

When police over react, the media will over react, which is what we are seeing.  One news outlet actually featured a rambling interview with the suspect marvelling at how by simply  using a two-bit laser pen, he was almost able to bring down a 3 million dollar helicopter.   This only serves to sensationalize what is a serious issue.  The suspect was nabbed quickly and efficiently by the police.  No fanfare was needed.

Police officials have provoked a media circus with the potential of rousing other fools in the possession of two-bit laser pointers who may now feel the urge to tear themselves away from their video games and play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with police.

The Four Ten (4/10) Shift Schedule

In a previous post I wrote about the 18:1 ratio and indicated that in a future post I would outline why it takes 18 officers to staff one patrol unit.

First, let me start by providing an overview of  the uniform patrol shift schedule used by the Winnipeg Police Service.  It is generally referred to as the 4/10 shift schedule.

Police officers assigned to the six  general patrol divisions are split into 2 platoons, essentially 2 police departments,  A-Platoon and B-Platoon commonly referred to as A-Side and B-Side.  When A-Side is working, B-Side is off and vice versa.

Each platoon is subdivided into 3 sub-platoons to correspond to the 3 shifts: day shift, evening shift and midnight shift. Platoons are identified as A1, A2 and A3 and the same on B-Side.

A person working an 8 hour day, 40 hour week ends up working 2080 (52 x 40) hours a year with every Saturday and Sunday off.  This works out to 260 working days, and 104 days of weekly leave.

Police officers working the 4/10 also work 2080 hours per year.  With 10 hour shifts that means they work 208 days and have  157 days off.

Many people refer to this shift schedule  as the four on/four off shift but that is not entirely accurate.  In order to have a true 4 on/4 off system, the shifts would need to be around 11.5 hours in length.  Because the shifts are only 10 hours, police officers quite often work 5 and sometimes 6 ten-hour shifts and then get 4 days off.

The 4/10 shift schedule also has provision for overlap days where all members of both platoons are scheduled to work.  These overlap days are intended to be used for training, catching up on report writing and other administrative functions.  They are also used as an opportunity for officers to take additional time off.

Lastly, because the day has 24 hours and 3 ten-hour shifts work out to 30 hours, there is an opportunity to overlap the shifts and create a 6 hour period where the number of patrol units on the road is doubled.  This overlap normally occurs between nine at night and three in the morning.

Using the 4/10 shift schedule as a back drop the next post will explain why it takes 18 officers to staff one patrol unit.

End Note

I have noticed recently that although this post was written some time ago it is still getting a steady stream of hits on a daily basis.  If you have any questions about the 4/10 shift schedule in terms of pros and cons or just questions in general please feel free to contact me via email.

For a follow-up on this post click here

The Effect of Adding 18 Positions to General Patrol

Of the additional 58 police positions promised by the mayor as part of his re-election platform, 18  are destined for General Patrol, commonly referred to within the Service as GP.  GP officers are the uniformed officers assigned to work marked patrol units.  When citizens call 986-6222 or 911,  GP officers are the ones who respond to their calls for service.

Media reports have indicated that the 18 positions being added to GP will produce “another shift” .  The implication of that is rather misleading but up to this point I have not heard either politicians or the Police Service saying anything to correct the misconception or explain the actual effect of adding 18 officers.

Here’s how it works:

The Police Service currently fields a minimum of 27 2-officer patrol units at the start of each shift, 365 days a year.  This means that the day shift starts with 27 units, as does evening shift and midnight shift.  The reason the term ‘minimum’ is used relates directly back to the wording in the Collective Agreement between the Winnipeg Police Service and the City. The minimum number of units the Police Service puts out on the street  forms part of the collective agreement.  The Service can field more than 27 units if personnel are available but it cannot field less.   Starting a shift with less than 27 2-officer units would violate the collective agreement.

So, how many police officers does it take to field one additional 2-officer unit?  The answer is 18.

The 18:1 ratio

Prior to the mid-1990’s the Police Service used a rather loose calculation to determine how many officers were required to field one unit 365 days a year.   The commonly used ratio was in the 14:1 range with an allowance for additional personnel in Divisions 11 (downtown) and 13 (north-end), based on workload.  The problem identified by Uniform Division Commanders operating under the 14:1 ratio was that  they could not field the required number of patrol units unless they drew resources from other areas such as Traffic, Community Constables,   plain clothes units  or called out off duty personnel at overtime rates.

Around 1995 a couple  of newly promoted Superintendents decided to have a look at the ratio being used. This review resulted in a report being submitted to the Executive of the day  recommending that the ratio be changed to 18:1, which it was.

That perhaps makes it easier to understand why the Mayor picked the number 18.

Eighteen additional GP officers translates into 1 additional  patrol unit.

That’s 1 additional unit, not “another shift”.

In a future post I will examine why it takes 18 officers to staff one patrol unit.

Adding 58 Positions Will Reduce Police Overtime


As councillors were falling over themselves to support the addition of 58 positions to the complement of the  Winnipeg Police Service they cited a variety of reasons why they thought it was a good move.

One, that I heard several times and which was even tacitly supported by the Mayor despite the fact he knows or should know it is false, is that the additional positions will reduce overtime.

Intuitively it seems reasonable to assume that as more officers are added, overtime expenditures should go down.

In order to truly appreciate the impact of an additional  58 positions one must consider two things:  under what circumstances is police overtime generated, and how will the 58 new positions be deployed.

Police Overtime 101

Officers assigned to administrative duties, and inside (not on the street) supervisory roles have very limited opportunity to generate overtime.  This is why when you look at the compensation disclosure documents you will see constables drawing higher pay cheques than Patrol Sergeants, Staff Sergeants and in some cases even Inspectors.

Categorization of Overtime

Overtime falls in a numbers of distinct categories:

1. Hold-over of uniform personnel – The Duty Inspector has the authority to extend officers’ shifts to address a backlog of high priority calls waiting in the dispatch queue.

2.  Call Backs – The Collective agreement between the City and the union requires that each of the 3 shifts (day, evening and midnight) start with a minimum deployment of  27  2-officer units.  In situations where a shift is short of staff due either to sick leave, temporary assignment or the like, Sergeants must try to ‘borrow’ officers from another division.  If no other divisions have surplus officers, off duty officers are called out at the overtime rate to work a regular shift.

3.  Report Writing –  In some situations arrests are made close to the end of an officer’s shift.  In circumstances  where either due to necessity or policy, the report must be completed prior to the officer retiring from duty.

4.  Ongoing Investigations –  There are some instances where, due to the nature of the investigation (i.e. homicides), handing off the investigation to other officers at the end of the shift is not feasible.  Additional officers may be assigned to work with by the original officers who are kept on at overtime rates to ensure the continuity of the investigation.

5.  Operational Projects –  Projects where a particular group or a particular activity is being targeted are “gas guzzlers” in terms of overtime consumption.  Officers assigned to projects need to work flexible hours in keeping with the hours being kept by the target(s).  Many projects require 24 hours surveillance for extended periods of time. Mobile surveillance of a single target on a 24 hours a day basis can require up to 14 officers depending on how surveillance conscious the target is.

6.  Court – A substantial percentage of the police overtime budget is consumed by officers attending court on their days off or upon conclusion of their shift.    Despite efforts such as the Court Overtime Reduction Project, court attendance still eats up vast amounts of overtime dollars.


Of the 58 new positions being created, only the 18 being assigned to general patrol will have any impact on reducing overtime.  They may produce minimal savings in relation to reducing hold-overs and call-backs.   Such savings, however, may well be eaten up by additional overtime related to report writing, ongoing investigations and court attendance generated by these same officers.

Twenty positions are destined for an expansion of the Gang Unit.   Specialty units such as Gang Units are normally heavily involved in project work.  These twenty positions will generate substantial additional overtime.

The 20 positions destined for foot patrol, unless they become a pool of officers that can be drawn on by uniform patrol divisions to fill in for shortages (in which case they would totally lose their effectiveness), will generate rather than eliminate overtime.

The Bottom Line

If the Mayor and councillors were  led to believe that the addition of these 58 positions would save overtime dollars, they either failed to ask the right questions or they were misled.

What Do 58 Additional Police Officers Cost

During the heat of Winnipeg’s 2010 Civic Election campaign, Sam Katz sprung a headline- grabbing election promise to add 58 more police officers to the ranks of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Recently, when asked about the cost of the additional officers, the Mayor indicated he did not know the cost associated to the hiring of 58 additional officers.  Does anyone really believe that?  Would the Mayor make an election promise without costing it?  Well, I suppose it’s possible – after all, it’s not his money that’s at stake.

According to the Mayor the WPS will hire an additional 32 officers in 2011 and a further 26 officers in 2012.

For the benefit of the Mayor, and members of the public who have an interest in how the Mayor is spending our tax dollars, I did a quick ‘back of the napkin’ calculation and came up with the following estimate.

The additional expenditure in 2011 will be just over 750,000 dollars for the first 32 officers.  In 2012 when the remaining 26 positions are filled the cost will jump to 2.8* million. Five years from now when these officers achieve the 100% pay rate for constables the bill for these 58 positions will total 5.2 million.  And that figure of 5.2 million comes with a proviso:  the numbers quoted here are based on the current pay schedule.  If, for example, salaries were to increase, say, 3% per annum for the next 5 years, that number would jump from 5.2 million to 5.8 million.

Now Your Worship, we all know what your election promise will cost us.

*calculations are based on a starting salary of $43,000.00, plus 15% for benefits, and a onetime cost of $2000.00 (per position) to equip new recruits.  Figures quoted do not include the cost of additional vehicles, fuel or other additional costs that will be incurred by the Service as its complement expands.

Foot Patrols Part III – The Pre-Community Policing Era

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Winnipeg was at the very cutting edge of what later came to be known as Community Policing.  It was dubbed Operation Affirmative Action  (OAA).

OAA incorporated many of the principles and values first proposed by Sir Robert Peel when the London Metropolitan Police Force was formed in 1829.  OAA was an approach to policing that recognized the importance of forming partnerships between the police and the community at the local level.  Hence it was structured on a geographical basis.  It was an early  form of Zone Policing that was later popularized by many Canadian and American cities under the banner of ‘Community Policing’.

The main tenets of OAA were:

  • permanent long-term assignment of  patrol unit and beat personnel to specific geographical areas;
  • the use of problem solving as opposed to a strictly legal approach to dealing with issues at the community level;
  • being proactive in terms of developing a working partnership with residents and business people on the an officer’s assigned beat and patrol unit area as well as addressing local community issues in their early stages before they developed into full-blown community problems.

The concept was a sound one but ahead of its time.  The OAA approach represented a radical departure from the policing norms of the day in terms of values, goals and approaches.

Officers assigned to beat patrol received very limited training and for the most part continued doing beat patrol in the same manner as they had in the past.  The proactive side of the equation was not sufficiently explained to either beat personnel or members assigned to mobile patrol units.  The entire operation was administered by a Staff Sergeant and without any apparent support by the police executive of the day, many officers took and expressed the attitude “this too shall pass” and failed to buy into the initiative.

Lastly, the police executive of the day was not prepared to give up decision-making power or control to the officers working at the street level.  This attitude  prevented the a proactive approach central to the success of OAA from taking hold.

Like many good ideas OAA  suffered from insufficient executive commitment,  inadequate pre-implementation  training and a general lack of post-implementation  nurturing.

As a consequence OAA died on the vine.

Part IV will deal with foot patrols during the community policing era which was kick started with the publication of a discussion paper titled A Vision of the Future of Policing in Canada, published by the Solicitor General of Canada in 1990.

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.

2010 Winnipeg Police Annual Report – Not

Annual reports can be very useful tools, generally providing a review of the previous year’s performance. Like most major corporations, the Winnipeg Police Service releases an annual report.   Based on the late year release of the 2009 Annual Report – it wasn’t made available until December 2010 – one can anticipate that it may be another 11 months before the public and media see the 2010 Annual Report.

Eleven months after the fact is a little too late to get crime statistics.  After 11 months, statistics, especially crime statistics, are old,  stale and  really of little if any use if one wants to analyze them and effect any meaningful change.

So if you want a statistical  preview  of  the 2010 annual report visit the Crimestat website and click on ‘view report’.  Unlike the Annual Report (i.e. the official ‘picture book’ version), the website has no glossy pictures of helicopters and guns (the preoccupation of the mayor and current police executive).   You can look at the pictures, however, when the actual  annual report comes out in December.  If, of course, that’s what you’re after.

The ‘star’ again this year driving the  majority of the 8% reduction in the crimes tracked by Crimestat was the award winning  Winnipeg Auto Theft Reduction Strategy, the evidence based and data driven strategy that was implemented in 2005.