850 FOOT PATROL HOURS = SQUAT (Quality vs Quantity)

The Winnipeg Police Service proudly released information yesterday indicating they recorded a total of eight hundred and fifty (850) beat patrol hours in downtown Winnipeg for August.

This total exceeded their goal of 500 hours.

In my estimation eight hundred and fifty (850) beat patrol hours equates to exactly zilch, nada, zippo, nothing.

In fact, it is a very strange way to measure success.

That fact was not lost on Inner City analyst Brian Kelcey who was quoted in the Winnipeg Sun as stating “You don’t measure success based on how many more hours you’re working, or numbers you’ve deployed.”

Sad that a member of the public makes that connection and our Police Service doesn’t.

More evidence to me that the people with decision making authority in our Police Service just don’t get what crime and real public safety is all about.

When I started with the Police Service in 1987 I walked the Main Street beat for the first six months of my career.

I returned to the Main Street Beat again in 1994 working with rookie partner Constable Curtis Penner, a short, stocky, hungry young cop who could never seem to work enough hours in a day.

Together, we took complete control and ownership of the Main Street Beat recording a total of one hundred & sixty (160) arrests during our nine (9) month assignment.

(When you factor in shift schedule and holidays, these numbers translate to a minimum of 1 – 4 arrests every working day.)

Although these arrest numbers were significant, they meant little in isolation.  What was important was to measure the impact that those arrests had.  Many of these arrests were habitual criminals we targeted because they were “shitting” in our back yard.

When it comes to beat patrol and crime reduction, several principles and conditions must exist for Policing efforts to be successful.

It starts with the Police personnel assigned to the task.  It is essential that they are highly motivated, dedicated and committed individuals who are prepared to take ownership of an area and do the work.

(From my experience, finding Police Officers with these attributes has never been a problem.)

It also requires computer skills, organizational ability and crime analysis.  Police have to do their homework and identify what problems the criminal element present in a given area.

Police management has to support the efforts and keep hard working productive officers in the assignment for longer periods of time so that they can retain valuable criminal history and corporate knowledge.  Lengthy assignments also facilitate the building of strong, trusting relationships with people or business entities in the affected area who can offer vital support, information and problem solving assistance.

Once you have an understanding of the problem you can develop strategies to deal with the issues whether they are Strong Arm Robberies, Thefts, Assaults or simple public intoxication or pan handling.

This is called pro-active policing and it works.

Criminals have a tendency to become habitual and territorial.  They become skilled at certain crimes and can plague an area much like an insect infestation.

Experience tells us that a very small percentage of individuals are responsible for the vast majority of crime in any given area.

The challenge is to identify the habitual criminals and get them dirty.

As a member of the Police Bike Patrol Unit in 1998 & 1999 we became aware of a significant bike theft problem in the area of Portage Place.  To deal with the issue we conducted short term projects where we would plant a decoy bike and take a wait and see approach.

We were never disappointed with the results.  Time after time habitual criminals took the bait and found themselves in handcuffs.  Not surprising to any of us, the offenders often had lengthy records, arrest warrants, were on bail, probation or some other form of Court Order.

The Courts continue to exacerbate the problem with soft justice, release, sentencing, bail and the catch and release program.

Prior to retiring this year I had an interesting conversation with Cst Miguel Carvalho*, a dedicated soldier working the mean streets of Winnipeg.

Carvalho drew a parallel between Downtown Winnipeg and Times Square in NYC.  We both agreed the vibes in these locales could not be more different.  I’ve been to Times Square in NYC and enjoyed a tremendous sense of safety.  Beat cops everywhere, no scum bags, gang bangers, criminals or pan handlers in sight.

I’ve recently walked through Portage Place with my wife and children and had the exact opposite feeling.  Scum bags, gang bangers, criminals all around us, feeling naked without my firearm, relieved when we made it back safely to our vehicle and found all four windows in tact.

Carvalho, a rabid Jets fan, wants to see downtown safety become a major priority so that Winnipeg can truly showcase our new NHL franchise by providing a “truly” safe environment for the throngs of visitors and fans the team attracts.

Increased Police presence is a start but lets not measure success by something as innocuous as beat patrol hours.

We should all have much higher expectations!

*Carvalho promoted to Patrol Sergeant post retirement.

POLICE EFFICIENCY – A True Oxymoron

 

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“City seeking outside input on police efficiency” was the headline on a very brief WFP online article submitted by Bartley Kives.

It seems that the City has some concerns regarding how the $220 million dollar budget is being spent.  The purpose of the review is to find ways for the police to deliver better value for the money it spends on policing and public safety.

According to Mike Ruta, Winnipeg CFO, the review “is intended to examine existing operations, organizational structure, systems, technology, administration and staffing.”

That is a sweeping mandate.

Therein lies one of the most significant reasons why true Police Service efficiency has decayed so much over the last few years.

Newsflash……cops are not accountants, they don’t have the background, training or education.

Yet money has become one of the most significant concerns facing Police Management over the last several years.  Like any organization, the concerns from the top filter down to the bottom.  The Police Service is not immune from this reality.  I witnessed the corrosive effects first hand.

In 2008 I accepted a position in the Police Service as one of the two Sergeants in charge of the Organized Crime Unit.

Sergeant Rod Hourd, a well known, hard working and respected drug  expert, filled the other chair.

The OCU had a sweeping mandate and was one of the most important entities in the Police Service.  Officers working in this area form the thin blue line that exists between the public and the gang bangers and drug dealers that are fighting for control of our streets.

As leaders in this unit our philosophy was simple, the streets belonged to the public and it was our job to keep it that way.  We adopted a recognized strategy that called for the implementation of the five (5) D’s for gang intervention:

  • Detention
  • Disruption
  • Displacement
  • Disbanding
  • Distrusting

As results oriented individuals, we placed heavy emphasis on the first goal, that of detention.

The message had to be sent that if you wanted to be a gang member or drug dealer in the City of Winnipeg, then there was a very high likelihood that you were going to end up in jail.

There was no shortage of hard working, dedicated Police Officers lining up to help send that message.  The results we realized were outstanding and the impact on the criminal element was undeniable.

Those results undoubtedly factored into the decision of upper management to transfer me to the Homicide Unit in the spring of 2009.  Sergeant Hourd remained at the helm of the OCU and continued his crime fighting efforts.

These were some of the most productive and rewarding years of our careers.

Key to this productivity was the support we enjoyed from Crime Division Commander Inspector Jim McIsaac, a hands on leader who provided support but also demanded accountability.

In 2010, Homicide Unit efficiency was called into question after supervisors and investigators salaries were reported to vary between $150,000 – $190,000.

An intensive review was subsequently completed that reported findings that surely floored upper Police Management who learned, among other things, that the WPS Homicide Unit stacked up extremely well versus comparators, in fact, the WPS;

  • Solved homicide cases at 50% of the cost
  • Operated with approximately half the investigators
  • Had no civilian support staff
  • Had an enviable 90% solvency rate over a twelve year period
  • Salaries were in line with industry standards

Reeling from these findings, Police Management formed a Review Panel to study the findings and make recommendations.

I was asked to sit on this Panel and noted that I was the only person on the Panel who had any experience working in Homicide.  As such, I was designated as a subject matter expert.

Recommendations received a frigid reception and would be largely ignored much to the dismay of investigators who needed immediate support.

Everything would change in the Spring of 2011.

In their infinite wisdom, Police Management decided to make a wholesale change in the leadership in the Crime Division.  Leaders that supported their people were replaced by bean counting Gumbys whose mandate would be revealed in time.

The arrest of gang bangers, drug dealers and other reprobates would become an extremely low priority under the new leadership.  Stringent overtime controls the primary consideration.

I watched in disbelief as my former colleague, Sgt Rod Hourd, one of the most highly motivated police officers I had ever met, became a frustrated, disenfranchised soldier.  The destruction of morale evident in the worker bees in a once highly productive unit.

Retirement his only option and one that he would eventually exercise.

My story was similar, albeit much more controversial and public.

Forced out the door by people in a power grid that just didn’t care about fighting crime.

The impact on the Homicide Unit was evident.

Led by a Commander intent on making misguided and uninformed changes to the Unit before even bothering to take the time to read the Homicide Review Report, one of the most intensive studies ever completed regarding Homicide Unit Operations.

(By his own admission during testimony at the Peltz Labor Board Arbitration Hearing.)

His second in command, more concerned with investigators cruiser car parking protocols than ongoing Homicide cases.

Universally accepted Homicide Investigative principles, such as front loading cases being sacrificed.

Informant payments slashed, handcuffing investigators in their efforts to secure the type of information required to infiltrate and impact criminal gangs and drug cells.

Be forewarned, Police Management will never admit to these operational “inefficiencies”, but those of us close to the street know the truth.

I can assure you that when I ran a Homicide case, “money” was not a primary concern.  It was always about solving the crime and having the appropriate resources at hand to do so.  An approach I learned as an investigator under the leadership of respected successful crime fighting supervisors.

If you want to succeed, Homicide cases have to be worked hard.  That means going until you get a break that cracks the case.  If that means working a 24 hour shift or more, so be it.  Overtime costs are a reality that must be accepted.  I would never want a “Gumby” worrying about cutting costs when Police are investigating the murder of someone I loved or cared about.

I don’t purport to have all the answers that Mr Ruta is looking for when it comes to Police Service efficiency, but I do know this, effective Policing suffers greatly when the all mighty dollar is a primary consideration.

Another news flash…….Winnipeg has one of the worst crime problems in the Country.

Police in Winnipeg need to be focused on fighting crime not $$$.

After my experience participating in an efficiency study with the WPS, it became quite apparent that the current Police Executive couldn’t have really have cared less about the findings of such undertakings.

If you want the Police Service to be more effective &  efficient, get rid of the Gumbys and hire some real accountants.

SENTENCING INSANITY – The Prisoners are Running the Asylum

After twenty-five (25) years in law enforcement I have my fair share of war stories to tell.

I have seen much, the bright side and the dark side of life.  I have witnessed great triumphs and horrific miscarriages of “Justice.”

As I reflect on my career one of the things that still troubles me is the complete and utter lack of consistency that I have witnessed at our law courts, a place that I spent countless hours sitting in the hallways waiting for my turn to provide evidence.

We see it every day in our news papers.  Articles written by dedicated crime reporters exposing the dirty secrets that occur almost daily in our criminal courts.  Respect for criminal “justice” at an all time low as socially aware citizens grind their teeth after reading every column.

The inconsistencies never more apparent than it two cases I worked on during my career.

The first involved an offender named William James Bradford Canning who went on a Robbery spree in Winnipeg in the mid 1990’s.

I met Mr Canning on the very first night of my assignment as a Detective in Division #23, the Robbery / Homicide Squad.

Canning was into robberies in a big way.  His modus operandi was to steal a vehicle, arm himself with a knife, pull on a balaclava and go to work.  He liked to hit a variety of businesses that included Hotels and beer vendors.  Although he liked to brandish a weapon, he never used it, nor did he injure any of his victims.

It was after a robbery at a beer vendor on Keewatin Street that Mr Canning was introduced to the business end of my Benelli shot gun.  His eyes big as saucers as he gripped the steering wheel of his hot ride following my directions not to move or else.

The balaclava pulled from his face by my partner Det George “Jungle” Murray, exposing Cannings thick bushy afro like hair and scrubby bearded face.

Canning was ultimately charged with over twenty such robberies.  He represented himself at trial and was convicted of dozens of robbery and related charges.  He received a twenty (20) year sentence with no parole eligibility for ten (10) years.  He received no credit for the two years “dead time” he did in pretrial custody.

Twelve (12) guaranteed years behind bars for Robbery offences.

The second case also occurred in the mid 1990‘s and involved an infamous criminal we know as Richard Daniel Wolfe.

“Richie Wolfe” was one of the original gangsters who is largely credited with being the founding father of the Indian Posse street gang.  An extremely hard core violent criminal.

(Not to be confused with his violent, now deceased, gangster brother Daniel Richard Wolfe.)

“Richie” was armed with a sawed off shot gun and laid in wait for an unsuspecting pizza delivery driver who he would mercilessly blast in the stomach in predatory robbery offense.  Wolfe fled the scene with the proceeds of his crime as his victim lay on the ground with the majority of his internal organs splayed on the ground.

The victim suffered extensive long term physical and psychological injuries as a result of this incident.

This case was also hotly contested at trial but the result the same, a conviction for Attempt Murder and a significant sentence of nineteen and a half (19.5) years incarceration.

I personally don’t take issue with the sentences bestowed upon Canning & Wolfe.  Both had extensive criminal histories and were not candidates for any form of leniency or soft justice

The irony……if either Canning or Wolfe had killed one of their victims they would have received much softer sentences.

In both cases, the circumstances would likely have dictated that charges of second degree murder would have been laid.  If convicted, both offenders would likely have only received sentences of ten (10) years before being eligible for parole.

The message this kind of sentencing sends to offenders should concern all of us.

I really don’t want to live in a society where criminals are much better off committing murder that simply robbing or wounding their victims.

As recently underlined by WFP crime reporter Mike McIntyre in his article “Getting away with murder” published on June 16th, 2012, Homicide is one of the most under punished crimes in our Country.

My argument for mandatory minimums and increased sentences for murder & manslaughter offences is made.

As Winnipeg struggles with the most violent City in the Country moniker, I wonder what it might take before someone in a leadership capacity picks up the fight to make the changes so desperately needed.

Political leaders who live in the murder capitol of Canada should be leading this fight.

Yet our leadership remains mute and apparently apathetic.

It’s not just murder offences.  The entire justice system is broken and in desperate need of repair.

This reality has never been more evident than in the recent controversial sentence imposed by Judge Ray Wyant on a first time offender for impaired driving.

Judge Wyant took a stand and sent a strong message to the public, a message that was almost immediately undermined by one of his fellow judges on the bench.

The reality is Judges are just people, people with different beliefs, ideals and value systems.

Inconsistent Justice is Justice denied.

Time to take away the flexibility given to our Judges so that a more consistent and balanced approach to Justice can be restored.  They had their chance and they blew it.

Mandatory minimum sentences provide for even justice and take away the discretion that has been so horribly abused.

The criminal code is in desperate need of repair as is the manner in which “Justice” is being delivered in our Country.

Lets stop the insanity.

OUT OF ORDER – Justice System Overhaul Needed

I recently wrote a blog called “Sentencing Insanity – The Prisoners are running the Asylum.”

The story revolved around my experience in law enforcement and the serious concerns I have regarding imbalanced sentencing and the need to remove discretionary powers from our Judges.

Never before have these concerns been more justified than in the case of the “Loonie” sentence recently given to a young offender for two counts of breaching court orders.

Judge Judith Elliott, apparently off her medication, rubs salt into our wounds by giving the offender a ridiculous three months to pay.

Dean Pritchard, Winnipeg Sun, covered the story and must have been scratching his head with every stroke of the keyboard.

The story provoked Winnipeg Police Association VP Marc Pellerin to weigh in with an article of his own titled “Justice a running Joke.”  (Winnipeg Sun)

Although Pellerin might have the outward appearance of a Cro-Magnon Man, he is a thoughtful articulate man whose words should be respected and heeded.

“If anyone wonders why there’s no respect for law and order this case crystalizes the reasons why” he wrote.  Pellerin is dead right.

I am a very strong believer in consequences.

Dictionary.com defines consequences as “the effect, result or outcome of something occurring earlier.”

If a criminal offender experiences no “effect, result or outcome” from their criminal behavior, exactly how do we expect the criminal behavior to change.

The short answer is that it won’t change and thats a factor Judge Elliott failed to consider with her latest miscarriage of Justice.

As I wrote in my sentencing insanity blog, inconsistent Justice is Justice denied, that is, Justice denied for all of us, not just the offenders and the victims, we as a society all suffer the consequences.

Those consequences are easy to measure in a community designated as the most violent, crime ridden City in the Country.  The constant erosion of real consequences for criminal behavior has critically undermined our Courts, Police and ultimately, law and order.

I witnessed this erosion first hand over a twenty-five year career in law enforcement.  The teeth of the Justice system worn down to the flat, seemingly no longer capable of inflicting a bite of any consequence.  Apathy and indifference rule the day, victims rights a distant, often overlooked consideration.

The Police answer the calls, investigate the crimes and arrest the offenders.  What happens after that has become utterly shameful.  Judicial interim release (bail) awarded to offenders against all logic or principles, convictions with no consequences and the revolving doors of justice continue to spin out of control.

Police forced to play the “catch & release” game arresting the same offenders over and over again, criminal apprehension turned into a ludicrous, almost redundant pursuit.

The system is broken and in desperate need of repair.

When you really think about it, how could we have expected a different result.

Judges are just people who had the opportunity to go to law school.  They are people who come from diverse backgrounds, sexual orientations, races and religions.  They are Liberal, Conservative and in some cases, bleeding hearts, as was evidenced by Judge Marva Smiths ill considered gift of flowers to a criminal offender.

They are just people, people who are imperfect, just like the rest of us.

How could we possibly expect such a diverse group of people to deliver consistent Justice.

The “Loonie” sentence puts the argument for a complete overhaul of the Justice system over the top.

Judges can no longer be trusted to use their inconsistent, often flawed or misguided discretion to deliver Justice.   That experiment failed.

We must temper the high esteem Judges have historically enjoyed and find a way to insert some form of accountability into the judiciary.

Mandatory minimum sentences have to be one of the remedies to be considered as a fix to bring back some balance to the tilted scales.

Our Political Leaders need to quit burying their collective heads in the sand and stop ignoring the reality of a broken Justice System.

Ironically, our crime rate is an undeniable consequence of failed Justice.

Frankly…….the Justice System is simply OUT OF ORDER.

Leaders wanted!!!

THE TRUTH HURTS – Police Response Times Under the Gun!!!

Back from holidays and eager to weigh in on a couple of issues that have received attention since my brief family camping hiatus.

The first issue exposed in an article written by Gordon Sinclair and published in the WFP on August 18th titled  “Gaps in Police Service need to be plugged.”

The story centered on Linden Woods residents who witnessed a break and enter in progress to their garage.  They were shocked after they called 911 and subsequently waited for approximately two hours for police to arrive.

To make matters worse, the suspect was subsequently scared off only to attempt another score across the street in a neighbors garage.

The poor response times have left these tax paying citizens feeling anger and fear after having their sense of safety compromised in such a profound way.

The refreshing part of the story centered on the candor of the District Six Commander, Inspector Bill Fogg, who is responsible for Policing the area in question, a fearless and respected leader with a high degree of integrity.

Inspector Fogg provided a frank and honest accounting of his resources that shed light on the unacceptable Police response.

Mr Sinclair concludes that the central contributory issue revolves around gaps in Police service experienced at shift change.

I beg to differ.

My experience in law enforcement tells me that the problem is systemic in nature and is much deeper and more complex than you might think.

What we know is that during the time of the incident District Six Police fielded four two man Police Units.  These units were accounted for as follows:

  1. One Unit was off with an arrest
  2. One Unit was off on a Theft Call
  3. One Unit was on a Domestic call in District Six
  4. One Unit was pulled into District Three on a Domestic

(What is not clear is if cars #1 & #2 were off on calls that originated in District Six.)

Inspector Foggs accounting exposes one of the pieces of the puzzle.

The fact that one of his units was pulled into District Three is a significant piece of information.

If I was a tax paying citizen in District Six, I would be very disturbed knowing that 25% of the Police resources in my area were sent somewhere else to deal with issues in another District.

We all know that a very large chunk of our tax dollars are spent on Policing and we all deserve some kind of return on our investment.  A two hour response time just doesn’t cut it.

Tax payers would be shocked to know the truth.

The truth is that if you live in District Six or District Two your Police resources are just about everywhere but in your District.  Cars from these Districts are routinely sent to Downtown and the North-end to deal with “higher priority” calls of all sorts.

That leaves the people in the suburbs vulnerable and unprotected.

Right or wrong, boundaries between Districts are simply not respected like they once were.

The reasons for this are also complex……

The bigger problem….

In a City tagged with the moniker of the violent crime Capitol of Canada, property crimes just don’t have much significance attached to them any more. That was evident when the Police Service disbanded their property Crimes Unit, or Division #24 as it was once called.

(The Unit was not disbanded because of lack of work…..the City was and still is plagued by habitual property offenders who continue to commit literally thousands of commercial and residential break & enters every year.)

Among other mandates, this unit specifically investigated Commercial and Residential Break & Enters, crimes that were once considered to be serious.

Crimes that have been steadily watered down by our Courts who rarely consider significant periods of incarceration for property crimes or for habitual property offenders.

The problem isn’t shift change.  Police shifts are staggered to provide for gaps in service.

As a new Police recruit I took an oath to protect “life and property.”

As a resident of a violent City, I understand that the protection of life must come first.

Its just unfortunate that the protection of property has become such an extremely low priority.

The truth hurts.

NEW TO BLOGGING WORLD!

As a recently retired Police Officer I have been tremendously enjoying the novelty of being able to have an opinion that can be shared in a public forum.

After twenty five (25) years of silence, I now have a voice and intend to use it.

Over the last two and a half decades I have seen much.  I have witnessed miscarriages of Justice, horrific crimes and great triumphs.

I worked in Homicide for almost eight (8) years and participated in over two hundred (200) murder investigations.

I loved the work and specifically enjoyed the fine art of high stakes criminal interrogations.

I am keenly interested in “Justice” related issues, specifically crime and punishment.

I am not afraid to talk about taboo issues and share my thoughts and opinions.

I hope to educate, motivate and move my readers.

Life is a great ride, drivers wanted!