Police spending: at a crisis point?

(Public Safety Building, Winnipeg)

Is police spending in Winnipeg reaching a crisis point?

That’s the question I had this morning when looking through the latest — however scant and vague — information available on city financial forecasts.

Quarterly Budget Forecast Document

Just weeks after the department’s nearly $224-million 2012 budget was adopted, the department is already forecasting a small deficit for the year of nearly $1.3 million.

“The Police Services department’s expenses are anticipated to be over budget due to overtime,” the explanation goes.

The current financial forecast indicates by the end of the year, WPS spending will cross the quarter-billion dollar mark.

I can fully accept that OT is necessary and unpredictable for most, if not all, organizations.

About 85 per cent of the overall WPS budget, however, already goes towards labour costs.

I get the sense something has to be amiss when I see despite the considerable — and ever-increasing — police budget, officers are going hat in hand to city committees for tiny cash grants to purchase mountain bikes to patrol on.

On May 22, The East-Kildonan-Transcona community committee approved a per-capita grant of $1,500 towards a patrol bike request (the service asked for $2,500).

Here’s the stated rationale for the ask:

The citizens of Winnipeg, specifically Transcona have contacted the Winnipeg Police Service on several occasions in regards to ongoing issues on the Transcona Trail. The Transcona Trail experiences a high volume of pedestrian/bicycle traffic through out the year with limited accessibility for emergency services. The ability for the Winnipeg Police Service to patrol the trail by bicycle will provide a visible police presence as well as a tool to assist police in apprehending offenders on the trail. Bicycle patrol also allows for a unique way for members of the Winnipeg Police Service to patrol the “Hi Neighbour” Festival, and escort parades in the Transcona area.

Monday, the Riel community committee will entertain, at the request of Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), another $2,500 request for same.

Essentially, that request is the same as above (Mayes’s ward also encompasses, partially, the East District Station’s catchment).

I have no issue with bikes for police officers. In fact, I’d like to see more bike patrols on the street when seasonably appropriate.

In fact, I take absolutely no issue with paying police well to do what many would agree is a challenging, difficult and dangerous job.

But what I can’t help but question is this: How does it make any sense that with a $224-million dollar-plus budget, the service can’t find a measly $5,000 to buy simple mountain bikes and avoid the optics of forcing an officer to go begging to city councillors?

It doesn’t look good.

I’d like to say that I could offer more information on what’s causing the OT spike leading to the deficit forecast, but there’s virtually zero public disclosure when it comes to actual police spending.

My sources tell me, however, that the thirst for OT hours in recent times has been seemingly unquenchable.

It’s interesting: Many (I think) would agree that working OT is seen by many as a burden.

I don’t get that sense when it comes to police OT.

I get the distinct feeling it’s seen as opportunity.

Estimate this: Tidbits on Manitoba’s justice system

(Winnipeg Sun file)

Information unreported in the media from the ‘leg Justice Estimates debates that concluded Monday after three days.

Full debates here if you care.




In bullet points [no order]:

  •  Average length of jail stay for sentenced adult offenders in Manitoba: 65 days. Youth: 187 days.
  •  Average length of remand custody for adults: 49 days. Youth: 34 days.
  •  There are six levels of inmates pay within the Manitoba corrections system, based on the work they do: lowest (level one) is $2.20 a day, the highest (level six) is $4.70 a day.
  •  Amount jurors paid to hear trials: $0 for first 10 days, afterwards $30 a day.

 Minister Andrew Swan: 280 persons actually performed jury duty in Winnipeg, including alternates. Forty-two persons performed jury duty in the regions. So the total number of jurors was 322. There were 21 jury trials in Winnipeg and three in the regions for a total of 24.

Minister Swan: The guidelines are that the accused must suffer from a severe and pervasive DSM-IV access one mental disorder. That includes, but is not limited to, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, anxiety disorders and severe depression … I can advise that individuals suffering from personality disorders, from organic brain issues such as dementia associated with Alzheimer’s, or an FASD who don’t suffer from an access one disorder, aren’t candidates for the mental health court.

  •  Nintendo Wii units are used at the women’s correctional centre for fitness and exercise. Nintendo DS systems at the youth jail in Portage la Prairie and a Playstation at Headingley jail. They are purchased through the inmate’s trust fund.
  •  “There is some value” in considering using provincial inmates to do public works like parks cleanup, Swan says.
  •  An inmate emailed Justice critic Kelvin Goertzen about watching porn in prisons: “We was watching porn back in October when they installed new cable boxes through Westman Cable; we watched numerous porns, even rented the Diaz v. Condit UFC fight, numerous pay-per-view movies,” he said of the contents of the email.
  •  There is no program for tattoo removal within Manitoba Corrections. Swan said they are looking at one to see if it’s worthy.
  •  There has been one (although some are adamant two) accidental releases of prisoners from Manitoba jails so far this year.
  •  An accidental-release review commissioned by the province last year from an Alberta consultant cost $12,000.
  • Work on the 3rd floor floor of the “new” law courts complex will begin this year. For at least three years, the floor has been ripped up and taped off like a crime scene. [Note: it’s really embarrassing it’s been that way for so long. Tile problems were the apparent issue. Not sure why proper tiles are so hard to find.]
  • Funding for an additional Court of Appeal researcher has been added for this year. Many decisions — despite there being fewer requested in recent years — are more complex and take longer. Many cases take between 6-7 months to be decided. The national standard from the Canadian Judicial Council is six months.
  •  It can take two years to get a preliminary hearing date in Thompson. [It’s not much different in Winnipeg for multi-day prelims.]
  •  Crown attorneys will deal with an expected 154 constitutional challenges this year. Three-quarters of them relate to criminal cases.
  •  As of last Monday, not one gang has been listed as a criminal organization under the Manitoba Evidence Act. This crime-fighting tool was announced in April 2010
  •  Criminal justice budget [adopted] $166,204,000
  • Civil justice budget [adopted] $35,535,000
  • Corrections budget [adopted] $196,965,000
  • Courts budget (adopted] $53,620,000