An (inconclusive) answer to a question that’s always plagued me

(We're obviously talking about a different kind of Warrant)

Just how many warrants are in Manitoba police computers gathering dust?

It’s something I continually have asked myself for the last few years until today, when I was given something of an answer.

It’s 20,000, give or take a few.

That was Det. Sgt. John O’Donovan’s reply to my question at the official unveiling of an RCMP-Winnipeg police warrant (read: ‘Fugitive’) squad today.

His official reply was “more or less.”

You can read all about it here. The unit is already claiming some success in catching crafty crooks who evade the law — sometimes for years,

Now, while that number seems quite large, it’s important to remember that a single offender can be the subject of several warrants at a time.

That person’s arrest can lead to the execution of several warrants.

But realistically, the quoted number of 20,000 really means nothing has changed on the outstanding warrants front since late 2006.

From Mike McIntyre (@mikeoncrime) and the Winnipeg Free Press (@winnipegnews), Nov. 6, 2006 (Can’t provide a link, sorry):

Unexecuted warrants gather dust in system

… Winnipeg police have long complained they don’t have the adequate resources to execute the majority of arrest warrants, which end up simply gathering dust in their system.

Police told the Free Press last month there are more than 20,000 outstanding warrants currently in the system for a number of alleged offences, including federal parole violations.

Sgt. Kelly Dennison said many offenders have more than one warrant against them, sometimes as many as 10.

 Here’s hoping the new warrant squad makes a dent in a number that has apparently stayed unchanged in the last five years.
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Impaired driving arrests, by location

Couple things:

Great feature by Adam Wasny in the WFP this weekend on the Checkstop program, followed by a good story from Welch and virtually all other Winnipeg media outlets on the successes of this year’s crackdown, which has already exceeded years past in terms of arrests.

I take issue with the service — and the media — trumpeting that the tactic of targeting bars and social venues as “new,” however. They’ve been doing this for a long while now.

Instead, it would appear that the service has boosted staffing levels for the Checkstop initiative, resulting in more checks and roadside arrests.

From Dec. 2008 – official statement:

Police will be strictly enforcing Impaired Driving legislation, targeting areas of the city where social functions that involve the consumption of alcohol take place. Police will be using all tools at their disposal, including physical coordination tests and drug evaluations, to detect and arrest those who choose to drive impaired.

My gut feeling is that the real tactic is a simple one: Add more bodies. Who knows, maybe MPI or the MLCC ponied up some dough.

Another observation: For the first time, the WPS is giving a short description of the events leading up to a drunk driver’s arrest, which helps the media ‘sell’ the story about the stupidity of drunk driving more.

And as much as I admire the idea of the story, thumbs down to CTV for their recent report about DUI convictions stemming from previous years’ Checkstop arrests.

Picking 15 cases at random and then reporting the outcome isn’t enough to say the “majority” are resulting in convictions. Especially when there were 57 + arrests resulting in charges last season.

Do them all, and then make some conclusions. I suspect the result would be surprising.

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You have the right to remain silent. Not a lawyer.

Further to today’s earlier post, one of — if not my favorite — reporters, Kirk Makin of the Globe and Mail explains why the SCC was so keen to look at a suspect’s rights during interrogation.

What I’ve always found interesting about police interrogations is how in their efforts to get at the truth, police can lie their faces off to a suspect.

Quoth Makin:

They said that suspects can easily become confused when they are confronted by police with bits and pieces of real or fictional evidence. Believing there is no hope, they may be induced to give up their right to silence.

“The right to counsel – and by extension, its meaningful exercise, cannot be made to depend on an interrogator’s opinion as to its opportunity or utility,” they said.

In the first case, the Court majority ruled that self-incriminating statements from Trent Terrence Sinclair, who was being interrogated about an alcohol-induced killing, were admissible at his trial.

If you’re planning on, or perhaps think you’re going to wind up on the wrong side of an interrogation (as I did, to a degree — it’s no fun, believe me), read Makin’s article to bone up on what you can expect from the law of the land when you’re in that little room at your neighbourhood police station.

PS – the 600 plus comments on the Globe/Makin article are fascinating, and virtually all of them say the same thing: Shut the hell up. And, then, generally speaking, you have to tell police your name, address and show ID. That’s it.

The rest is gravy to them.

Consider yourselves warned. 😉

UPDATE: Another of my faves, Brian Lilley of Sun Media has also written on the SCC’s decision, which must have caused no end of internal debate.