‘Public has a right to know’ how WPS will tackle violence, chief says
Winnipeg’s police chief made a declaration today that truly matters in terms of police accountability.
At some point in the next few weeks, Keith McCaskill will come forward and state reduction targets for violent crime in the city.
“We haven’t in the past, but we have a strategic plan being developed right now and part of that will be targets,” the chief told a roundtable of media reporters today.
“And that will be released in the very near future,” he said. “I think it’s important.”
“The whole idea of the strategic plan over the last couple of months … we look at different venues across the country, what works and what’s good thing to do. And that’s a good thing to do,” he said.
“So I’ve directed our officers (doing the strategic plan) and part of it will be that: Look at what our targets will be and how we’re going to accomplish that,” McCaskill said.
That portion of the plan will be made public, he said.
“We’re going to talk about what kind of numbers we’re going to get to — whatever the percentage is going to be. We’re talking specifically about violent crime. And that’s a big thing. I’ve asked the strategic [planners] to come up with a plan on how we’re going to reduce violent crime, and what our targets are going to be.”
It should be ready “fairly shortly … in the next few weeks for sure,” he said.
“I’m not sure what those targets are going to be … [but] there’s no sense in putting a target together if you’re not going to tell anybody,” McCaskill said.
“Historically, we haven’t done it. The public has a right to know what we’re trying to achieve.”
North End shootings (Project Guardian): ‘We’re not there yet’
Much of Wednesday’s roundtable revolved around the three unsolved shootings that took place across the North End in late October (but not the Nov. 1 Danny Kachkan shooting). There’s no doubt the events rocked the city in terms of perceptions of security.
McCaskill said the homicide unit remains actively involved in investigating what happened, but at the root, provided no new information for the public. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. If you’re trying to solve the most serious crimes, it helps nobody — especially the relatives of grieving victims — to go blabbing about things before a suspect is arrested and charged.
McCaskill reiterated his belief the two killings — and the shooting of a teen girl — will get solved. What leads to that momentous day, however, remains to be seen.
“It’s gonna come from somebody calling in, it’s gonna come from an arrest and someone’s gonna provide information — ‘Guess what, I know more information.’ It’s gonna come from one of the informants, because we have informants across the city. And we haven’t got that yet, but it’s gonna come,” he said, later adding the police need the community’s support in order to move forward.
“As a rule, people don’t commit violent offences like that without someone knowing,” he said.
I guess the flip side of this is that six months after the unresolved shootings, there’s an undercurrent of belief suggesting because police don’t say anything about it, they don’t know anything about it, or don’t view the killings as a priority.
That’s not so, the top cop told reporters.
“You guys don’t like this, but we’ll always err on keeping things back if in any way it’s gonna help us solve it.” “We release information to the public, certainly if it’s a public safety issue … but often — more than not — we will hold some things back.”
“We’ve got some forensic evidence … we’re not saying it’s one shooter. We are saying we have evidence … that it’s pointing in that direction.”
“The homicide investigation is the most important and concerning,” he said. “We want to solve those. You want to get people before the courts.”
There was one nugget in the discussion, thanks to Gabrielle Giroday of the WFP who asked, simply:
“Do police believe that all three of these shootings were random?”
McCaskill paused, and then:
“Do I believe they’re random? No — like I told you — we believe it’s based on … oh – you mean whether a person just walked around? Um… [another pause] … that’s a difficult thing to say. We believe there’s the … information the homicide unit has would cause us to have, uh, belief there is the certain possibility of randomness, but there’s also the possibility that individual places were targeted — and I’m not saying the individuals in the places were targeted.”
Still, he cautioned against ‘tunnel vision’ and stressed the importance of investigators keeping their minds open. We’re always further ahead, he said, because each day, information police have about the crimes that doesn’t ring true gets tossed out.
When does a case become a ‘cold case?’
There are no specific rules, McCaskill said. Generally, they are the files where no tips come in for a long period of time.
“We don’t have any specific timeframe on it. There’s no rule in that regard.” “It’s ones that … they stay active. they’re always active. If a homicide is not solved, it’s active, always active. But are there investigators running out and beating the bushes after a period of time? Not unless new information comes forward.”
Insp. Jim McIssac:
“Say years. if nothing’s happened on that file for a couple years, then it moves over to the cold case area. But the homicide unit maintains cases on an ongoing basis and review tips as they come in.”
“When it actually goes over to the cold case unit, it’s years. For their files. And they’ve got all the files that over the years that haven’t been solved.”
“But there’s no definitive timeframe on it. It’s interesting. The investigators — not only the cold case ones, but the other investigators … they want to solve these things. It’s active in their minds. They’ve investigated these crimes and they have a good knowledge of them. And they want to solve them.”
He pointed to suspect remorse and advances in forensic investigations as possible reasons old cases get solved as the cold case cops go back over the files.