Peter Laporte trial notebook: 1

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I could swear I saw pale-skinned, pony-tailed Peter Laporte look wistfully at his mother from the prisoner’s box.

She had just turned up in courtroom 120 to testify against him.

It was one of those bizarro moments in court proceedings you don’t fully expect.

I’m likely dead wrong, but from the half-second glimpse he gave the woman from across the sterile room as she came in, I thought the best word to describe his look was: ‘wistful.’

After all, it’s not like he didn’t know it was coming, what mom likely had to say.

Ms. Laporte’s testimony wasn’t forced, tearful or in anyway reluctant.

She was asked questions and she answered each in a forthright, plainspoken and clear way — largely without emotion.

She’d smile once in a while when the lawyers didn’t get something she previously said exactly right.

I’ve spent a number of hours now sitting in Laporte’s hearing.

Not all of his trial, but a good chunk of it.

I’ll glance over at him from time to time to watch how closely he’s paying attention, making extensive notes on yellow paper and consulting frequently with his defence lawyer, Crystal Antilla.

I’ve followed Laporte’s extensive legal saga at a court-ordered distance since Nov. 25-26, 2008, when I exclusively uncovered his case for the Winnipeg Free Press.

That’s 3.5 years now it’s taken to come to a bona fide public hearing, if anyone’s counting.

Laporte’s pleaded not guilty to a list of serious charges, including ones relating to the alleged aggravated sexual assault of an eight-year-old boy.

And from what I’ve heard so far, not one witness called by the Crown could place him at the scene of any of the crimes.

To the alleged victims, the attacks were random, committed by a total stranger to them.

So far, by my reading, it has all the hallmarks of a classic ‘identity case’ — where it’s unclear in fact or law if the right suspect is the one police charged with the crime.

That all appeared to change Thursday afternoon, when Laporte’s mom testified that it’s her son on surveillance footage from the two apartment blocks where the crimes took place.

While that fact alone doesn’t mean anything in and of itself, it does place Laporte at the scene, thus creating tough hurdles for his defence to overcome.

I mean, when you have your own mother say (essentially), ‘Hey, that’s my boy there’ on video guiding a kid into an apartment stairwell just moments before a serious sexual assault takes place, that can only definitively be called one thing at this point: problematic.

Nevertheless, Ms. Laporte’s testimony may all come to naught.

Antilla will argue strenuously to have the mom’s testimony struck from the record based on an as-yet unrevealed legal argument.

But what really struck me about Lucille Laporte’s evidence is how it was obtained by police.

Laporte has been in continuous remand custody since Nov. 23, 2008, the day the allegations arose.

But it wasn’t until summer 2010 that sex-crimes investigators asked two colleagues completely unconnected to the case to bring Laporte’s mom in at the behest of the Crown to watch a few edited clips of surveillance footage from two apartment blocks in hopes of cementing the accused’s identity.

The mom wasn’t told any reason why she was being asked to look at the footage.

She was only asked if she’d come in and watch it to see if she recognized anyone.

That meeting didn’t happen until Sept. 2, 2010.

The exchange was, unusually, videotaped in a PSB office at Sgt. Cheryl Larson’s desk.

The mom is shown clips from a Cumberland Avenue apartment-block lobby (her own building).

“My son, Peter Laporte,” she says after viewing the entire clip. “I recognized him as his face turned to profile.”

She’s shown more clips of the inside of human shapes shifting inside a Mac’s store adjacent to the building.

“I don’t want to make a guess,” she says, carefully. “I’d be guessing.”

She’s then shown the lobby surveillance from the separate building where the boy was attacked.

“And then there’s Peter again,” she tells Larson. “Peter Laporte, my son.”

Larson plays her another clip — again of the Mac’s store.

Lucille doesn’t want to guess.

“Body shape, I’d say that was Peter,” she says, but adds she can’t be sure.

She’s shown one more clip of the lobby of her own building, where she at the time had lived for more than a decade.

“That was my son, Peter,” she says. “Yeah. That’s Peter.”

She said much the same under direct examination from Crown attorney John Field, who played her the video of her with Sgt. Larson as corroboration.

Ms. Laporte also divulged a number of other background details about her son.

Locked in a custody fight for his young daughter, Laporte came to live at his mom’s place in and around September 2007.

Prior to that, he had been gone “a very long time,” she said, later adding the last time before then she saw him was 2001-02.

But something happened on Dec. 15, 2007, she said. She awoke on the 16th to find him gone.

“I phoned the Public Safety Building first,” she told Field and Justice Perry Schulman.

She was told her son was in custody.

After going to see him at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, she learned Laporte had been charged with attacking a woman in her building, she said.

Laporte’s version went something like this, according to her testimony:

He had been trying to help a woman who appeared, bloodied, at the building’s entranceway.

He let her in to use the phone in the apartment, but after coming upstairs with him, she changed her mind and produced a bottle of wine.

They wound up in the stairwell, but later moved to the laundry room and drank until they passed out.

The next day (Dec. 16 2007) police arrest him and charge him with attacking her.

He told me she had a bleeding nose, blood on her face,” Ms. Laporte told court. “He didn’t think (her injuries) were severe.”

Laporte said her son came home in November 2008, saying that “lab work” had “exonerated” him and the charges were dropped.

Court records show the charges were stayed about 10 days before the allegations Laporte is now involved in fighting came to light.

The trial continues.

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

An electrifying post on WPS losing Taser cartridges

(Generic Taser cartridge)

Although it doesn’t happen with enough frequency to cause too much alarm, Winnipeg cops continue to lose the cartridges for their Tasers.

Police have disclosed four missing cartridges in the last 10 months.

That follows four getting lost over an eight-month period in 2010 and a promise of review of what was happening (see link).

The reported loss of one this week reminded me I had asked Chief Keith McCaskill about it early last year during a media sit-down but never wrote about what he said. (I believe this was May 2011).

Here’s his take on the Taser-cart problem, for the record:

What’s with the Taser cartridges falling off?

“It’s a good question — I’ve been asking that too. It’s an equipment issue, they’ve changed the equipment issue. After a while, there’s wear …

There’s wear, getting in and out and they disengage. And we’ve been talking to training (division) and all that stuff and coming up with better plans and so on. Because that’s where it is.

Because every time I see one. I think, ‘it shouldn’t be happening.’ And that’s the issue. It’s an equipment issue.

Is it happening when they [officers] get out of cars, on pursuits?

I guess at different times either gets pulled off — it’s an equipment issue to make sure it doesn’t happen, looking at different types of equipment to ensure that it doesn’t happen. But it has.

And so you’ve got either pouches wearing, or letting go or things like that. And it’s — if you look at the equipment that our officers are wearing, if … the belt they’ve got and all these — like a utility belt, like Batman

[Voice in background: ’23 pounds’]

Yeah. And they’re bumping things and banging things and things like that and that’s what’s happening.

(Another reporter) Is this an isolated issue here in Winnipeg?

No … It’s wearing on equipment, banging into things, things like that and all of a sudden … but we’re constantly looking at something better.

Because you think of all the officers that have been wearing these for years and most cases it doesn’t happen. But again, it’s a banging … a wearing on the pouch. You’ve got to be on top of these things and we’ve got to look at better equipment so hopefully it will last longer.

There’s no one thing the same, but it seems like, I don’t know, we’ve had four to five in the last while. One is too many. But that’s what it is.

We automatically report it because, I mean look — we look silly but we have to do that.

So it’s an equipment issue that you’re working to solve, or have solved? 

Well we thought we were solving it, and then something else happens. We keep … it’s banging into things, it’s all those things that occur.

And if, for instance, I was wearing my gun belt I couldn’t fit in this chair … and so you sit down, you might sit in a restaurant and boom, bang, and it’s gone. It’s the banging and thumping and all that stuff.

Or wrestling with somebody you’re arresting and all of a sudden you don’t realize it’s gone until a couple hours later. Because you should be aware of what you’re wearing all the time, but y’know, after a period of time you don’t think about it, right? And all of a sudden it’s gone and you don’t know where it is.

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Looks like there’s still some work to be done.

By my count, cops have disclosed the loss of Taser cartridges 11 times since Oct 27, 2006.

Why is it that we don’t hear similar reports out of Manitoba’s RCMP?

I can’t think of one time Mounties have reported a lost cartridge.

Could be they do less wrestling and running than their WPS counterparts. Who knows.

Manitoba’s mental health court sits May 10

It was many, many moons ago that the NDP declared there would be a provincial mental health court in Manitoba. Nearly a decade has passed.

From the WFP 6/11/2011: By Mary Agnes Welch

It was 2004 when then-Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh first said a mental health court was in the works.

“We’re of the view that if we’re going to have a successful mental health court we have to develop this slowly and sure-footedly,” he told the Free Press at the time.

“Slowly” turned into seven years. Last week, the province announced the court would finally launch this winter.

Selinger said it took time to do proper due diligence and planning on things like the mental health court to get them to a workable point.

“We put it in the throne speech last fall and we did it this spring,” said Selinger of the mental health court. “That’s a pretty fast turnaround.”

But, according to a judicial memo circulated today, we can all mark May 10, 2012 on our calendars as the day the shiny new MHC will sit for the first time.

Re: MENTAL HEALTH COURT 

Effective Thursday May 10, 2012, Mental Health Court (MHC) will sit weekly on Thursdays at 1 p.m. in courtroom 408, 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba.

This problem-solving court will hear matters where the accused’s involvement with the criminal justice system is a result of mental health issues and there the particulars of the incident(s) fall within the sets of criteria established by the Crown and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team.

PROCESS: 

Persons with mental health issues who have been or are about to be charged with an offence may be identified to the Crown by police, courts or corrections staff or counsel.

In these cases, the Crown will review the file and may refer the accused to the FACT team for a suitability and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application for and amenability assessment. Counsel may assist the accused in filing an application form and the required waiver form. Provided the accused is a suitable candidate for MHC and willing to participate, the FACT team will prepare a report to the MHC judge which will include a treatment plan. This process constitutes application to Mental Health Court.

Until an accused applies for MHC, the charges will be remanded on the pre-trial coordinator’s dockets. Upon application, the accused with appear for the first time on the MHC docket as arranged by counsel with court staff. The accused will enter guilty pleas, file application and waiver forms and enter into a bail as agreed upon by all parties. The charges will then be remanded week to week while the accused’s mental health is addressed during the treatment plan.

Each Thursday at 12 p.m. the MHC judge will meet with the FACT team and counsel in Judges’ chambers to discuss the treatment progress of each person on the docket. During the court sitting as the Crown calls each matter the MHC judge will address the named accused directly to encourage ongoing commitment.

As each accused’s mental health improves, appearances may become less frequent. Upon the treatment plan being completed, the accused will make a final appearance before the MHC judge either to be sentenced to a community based disposition or for the Crown to stay the charges.

The entire process is expected to take 18-24 months from referral to disposition.

ISSUED By Chief Judge Ken Champagne, Provincial Court of Manitoba

Over the past few months I had heard rumblings this would be happening, but like many, I’m sure, had no idea when.

The only other thing I had heard is that the Crown prosecutor who will be running the show is Susan Helenchilde, who is leaving community prosecutions to take this on.

The first Mental Health Court started in 1998 in Toronto, putting us well behind the curve in terms of time — that’s also allowed (hopefully) Manitoba to gain from the knowledge MHC’s in other jurisdictions have only gleaned through trial (pun intended) and error.

It’s interesting to note that in Toronto’s system, there’s a wide range of offences that aren’t eligible for MHC (below).

We’ll obviously learn in coming days what’s permissible for MHC in Manitoba.

I’d also highly recommend reading the “factors to consider” section of the Toronto MHA website. It’s also clear that Manitoba’s taking a bit of a ‘baby-step’ approach by electing (as per the memo above) to not stay charges until the treatment plan is completed.

Geeks can read stats analysis and other research topics on MHC’s here at Stats Can. (Like the court, your tax dollars paid for it, may as well read it.)

3. Eligibility of Offences

    • a. Offences that are not eligible (also known as Class III for purposes of other practice memoranda)

The following classes of offences will not be eligible for treatment plans or supervisory programs as an alternative to prosecution, regardless of the circumstances of the alleged offence or the accused:

      • murder, manslaughter, infanticide, criminal negligence causing death;
      • causing death or bodily harm by dangerous or impaired driving;
      • any offence causing serious bodily harm;
      • simple impaired driving or driving with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration;
      • offences involving firearms;
      • criminal organization offences;
      • kidnapping;
      • spouse/partner offences
      • child abuse;
      • offences involving child pornography
      • sexual offences including sexual assault, interference and exploitation, invitation to sexual touching and incest;
      • specific hate offences
      • home invasions;
      • perjury;

Manitoba kids ‘in custody’: The numbers

Manitoba was the only province in the *country* where the average count of youths in provincial custody — read:  on remand in jail, serving sentences or in the community on probation or community supervision — went up in 2010, the latest data available from Statistics Canada.

The data was released by the federal agency last week, and appears to show Manitoba being a leader when it comes to the number of criminally-involved kids in the system.

The data is an average monthly “in count” of youths in custody: Here’s what it measures, according to Stats Can

Total actual-in counts represent the sum of sentenced, remand and other status counts and exclude inmates temporarily not in custody at the time of the count. Total actual-in counts include provincial director remand not included in the remand and other temporary detention counts.

I make no assumption of what this data actually means, other than it appears to reflect to some degree the seriousness of youth crime in Manitoba, given that being locked up is always a last resort for judges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Under the Act, all reasonable alternatives to custody must be looked at before actually locking the cell’s — sorry, unit ‘s— door.

However, without a more comprehensive breakdown of how many youths recorded in the average were on probation or community supervision as part of a sentence, that’s a guess on my part.

But the also shows a massive disparity between the number of kids in provincial custody in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Again, without wanting to jump to some wrong conclusion, it appears where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Youth crime in our province is a major, under-reported issue. But I’ve always said that.

Here’s the data for your perusal. Comments and thoughts welcome:

Screen Shot 2012-02-05 at 3
(Courtesy Stats Canada)

Here’s a link to the statistics report, which was not subjected to an analysis by the agency. You can read how the data was sourced and the methodology there.

***(excluding Quebec, which did not report 2010 numbers).

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I note with some irony that this post marks number 204 for this blog since its inception — 204 being the Manitoba area code.

A wish for 2012

20111223-152604.jpg

This may be my last post for 2011, and I’m going to keep it short.

I have a wish for the city in 2012, which quickly approaches.

There’s been tons of furor, chatter, theorizing and even anger about photo radar enforcement in recent days. Links here, here and here for example.

The contract with ACS comes up for renewal late next year. Many, including city alderman Scott Fielding, want the program to die a quick death.

I say no. I say keep it. On a few conditions.

Those being:

1. That there be an admission by powers that be that the program exists to create revenue, with safety effects a contributing factor, as well, the contract with ACS should also be made public.

2. That the city divorce the administration of the program from the Winnipeg Police Service.

3. Following 2, that as the city mulls setting up a Transportation Authority as its currently doing, the photo enforcement program be controlled and administered by same.

This authority should also have an ombudsman position to arbitrate public complaints about the use of photo radar.

The biggest problem I personally have with the program is that it tarnishes the reputation of the police service, especially when the service itself has not much to do with the administration of the program. it ain’t cops sitting in those mobile radar cars, folks.

Quite frankly, it’s just embarrassing for the cops to be called on the carpet each time there’s public outcry about the tactics employed.

As well, divorcing the responsibility from the police would help cure old wounds that photo radar takes, in some way, a boni fide policing job away from the police.

The three measures listed, I believe, would increase accountability around the program and it’s uses.

It would also diminish the damage it’s done to the reputation of the police service over time.

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Mr. Bear goes to downtown Winnipeg

(James Hope Howard/Slurpees and Murder)

William Bear’s penchant for getting whacked out on sniff and wandering around downtown Winnipeg scaring people because of the large knife he carries in his pants likely saved his life.

The irony of existence sometimes amazes me. So does its cruel sadness.

Such was the case of the 34-year-old chronic substance abuser, who, (setting aside his criminal record) has racked up 53 documented Intoxicated Persons Detention Act arrests in his relatively short adult life.

He was picked up on Fort Street after a frightened member of the public called 911 to report a weirdo was walking around downtown in broad daylight with the weapon. Police rush into the area, and find Bear, staggering around.

In the plastic shopping bag he was carrying was a king can of beer.

Given his long and dated history with Winnipeg’s finest (and the fact he was out on ‘supervised’ probation), Bear’s locked up and spends the next 33 days behind bars.

A few days after he’s nabbed, the Austin Street rooming house he once called home is firebombed — allegedly by a woman looking to get payback on a relative but missed the target, killing five people Bear likely knew.

Bear’s arrest “might have saved his life,” Judge Fred Sandhu heard today.

In any event, Bear’s released soon after the fatal fire and picked up again just recently causing a disturbance outside the Main Street Project. Cops note he’s got a black rag soaked in paint thinner on him.

In the plastic shopping bag he was carrying was a can of beer.

By Friday, Bear, who hails from Berens River, is likely going to be back in the city.

But — despite his truly awful personal circumstances — he could be considered one of the lucky ones. He’s obtained help from a program to get him into housing and is on the waiting list for the Bell Hotel on Main Street.

For his part, Bear swears he’s headed straight from jail to a detox program, but said he wasn’t interested in staying at the Sally Ann in the interim due to some issues with drinking and drugs on its doorstep.

He was carrying the knife in his pants because of the brutal assaults many shelter-less people experience in the city, he said.

“This city’s kind of rough,” the soft-spoken Bear said. “People carry guns, people carry knives.”

Sandhu expressed worry that Bear — with his history of getting out of his mind on sniff — could end up harming or even killing someone without really realizing what he was doing.

However, given the nature of the charges he pleaded guilty to, there’s little Sandhu could do to keep Bear locked up.

“If you’re walking down the middle of the street and there’s nobody there, might be a couple of panhandlers … or somebody that you think [is] selling drugs, how do you feel? Normally, you’d think, ‘this is not very safe,’” Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill told the Winnipeg Sun’s editorial board on Wednesday.

Perception of safety downtown is just as important as the reality, McCaskill said.

If people perceive they’re unsafe, then it’s really the same effect is if they’re actually unsafe.

The goal is to get more people — including cops — into the area on a permanent basis.

McCaskill said he believes having the police headquarters right in the heart of downtown will help as more cop cars will be around, and more officers will be in the skywalks and on the ground as they go about their days.

For example, crime — especially vehicle break-ins — drops noticeably when a Jets game is on, he said yesterday.

The equation: more people, more activity equals fewer problems. Better perception. Better perception of safety.

The police service is already involved a crime prevention through environmental design study in the area, and has pledged more cops and bike patrols for 2012.

But it must be said: as efforts to continue to try and get more people into the beleaguered area, we as a society have to do more to help people in circumstances like Bear’s get right — if they want the help.

Barring that, we need to implement a system to keep the chronically drunk, high or vagrant out of the downtown proper — no matter the time of day.

Loitering in front of MEC? Off you go. Camped out in front of Portage Place or Giant Tiger? Sayonara.

It’s the only way downtown will ever have a chance to truly change its image and make it a truly genuine option as a place to live in Winnipeg.

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‘In Camera’

It’s always sad — and immediately curious — when you see a pregnant woman in the prisoner’s dock in court decked out in the dull grey uniform of Remand Centre inmates. ***(see note at bottom)

Such was the case today with Laura Lee Monias, 34.

Monias, a mother of an 18-month-old and just a few weeks shy of having her second child, appeared today to deal with several charges, many of them for failing to appear in court.

She was picked up recently after months on the lam from a bail plan that sent her to live at an unlocked treatment centre, something often reserved as a last-ditch plan for people with serious issues.

She walked away from it after a week or two. She says she simply got another bed at a different facility. Who knows.

She also pleaded guilty today to her fourth impaired-driving related conviction since 1998.

Monias is at the point where mandatory minimums apply due to her record of getting behind the wheel while drunk.

I was conflicted. I felt sorrow for her and her predicament, but at the same time glad that she faced a guaranteed period of jail time given the risk to the public she posed.

After her recent arrest she was bail denied, likely prompting her desire to plead guilty and get the punishment over with.

On Jan. 29, 2009, Monias crashed on the Trans-Canada highway (it was minor, no injuries) while speeding, according to witnesses. Another car also wound up in the snowy roadside ditch.

Police who rushed to the scene suspected she was drunk after she admitted to  drinking at a cousin’s home in Winnipeg a few hours earlier.

In the car she was driving — she somehow had a learner’s permit despite three prior drive over .08s — was a beer cap and some open liquor.

She was also with her so-called driving supervisor who was also suspected to be drunk. Charges were dropped against him last year.

Her efforts to blow a sample in an ASD for the cops failed miserably — she alleged the act of providing a breath sample reminded her of being abused as a child in some way. I won’t get into it.

By my math, she was a few months pregnant at the time with her first-born.

What followed was a series of catch and release arrests as she repeatedly failed to deal with the charge, leading to her most recent detention and guilty plea.

Judge Careena Roller called her behaviour “selfish and dangerous.” The judge spoke of the lost trust between Monias and society because of her scofflaw attitude.

“That behaviour gets jail sentences. It’s just that simple,” Roller said.

But the judge, likely feeling conflicted as well, offered Monias a big break by sentencing her to the mandatory minimum of 120 days in jail (23 left to serve after credit for dead time is factored in).

But she also offered the soft-spoken mom concurrent time on three fail to attend courts and a bail breach from the absconding from the treatment centre — something she said she doesn’t normally do, and isn’t required to by law.

She’ll likely be out in time to celebrate the birth of her newborn in the absence of correctional officers. I’m glad for that. Mostly for the baby.

It’s just my opinion, I know, but while sitting and listening to her case, my mind drifted to what kind of life her kids would have if she doesn’t get it together, and  quick.

Monias’ isn’t some big story, certainly not one I’d expect to see written up in the newspaper.

But my reading of the public’s interest prevents me from simply disregarding her case — another that references a major problem society has, but not major enough to warrant real ink.

Regardless of what I may feel about it.

Booze rears its head once again.

Just pointing it out.

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***

Hers was yet another case I’ve come across recently where it didn’t appear on the official docket the media gets every day. Showing up at these hearings draws stares from the lawyers.

‘THE ROADMAP’ — notes on the WPS strategic plan, part 1

(Winnipeg Police Service)Preface: It must be said from the get-go. You can’t drop a 44-page report filled with charts stats, graphs and policy goals on (most, not all) people and expect them to be able to ask meaningful questions about it without having had a chance to read and absorb it. Full stop. 

An embargo period of an hour or two would have been a welcome gesture. 

Just saying.

Am I exposing myself as not-too-bright by saying so? So be it. 

To my knowledge, at the time the WPS held the press conference to announce and discuss their ‘Roadmap’ strategic plan yesterday, (link below) not one of the roughly 10-12 reporters (including camera ops) in the room had seen nor read its contents. 

ED’s Note: I started this post out in hopes of pulling apart pieces of the plan, but after articles here and here, I’m just gonna say my own IMO bit and get it over with.

(Those who criticized the reporters for not asking tough questions, see preface to this post.)

 

First off: Kudos to the chief for keeping his promise, despite the delays since the crime-reduction targets subject came up in April/May.

While many, and probably rightly so, can and will lament the modesty of the stated reduction goals, they’re bare minimums. The hope is they’ll come down even more.

Downtown needs work. The perception of downtown even more so. That’s abundantly clear.

There’s some interesting features in the sections of the report not related to public-safety goals that will have a huge impact on the force.

1] Major Case Management: Next year, the WPS aims to test out a new computer reporting and filing process that will likely bring the major crimes, OCU and homicide squad fully into the 21st Century from a technology POV. More on this to come. Better tracking of reports and files for complex cases. A good thing. This may dovetail with the ongoing effort to provide electronic disclosure for court purposes.

2] A Crime-free multi housing program. We’re going to hear much, much more about this in coming months. Currently, high-level meetings are taking place between police, justice and public health officials (and likely MLCC peeps) to talk issues relating to MUD’s — multi unit dwellings. My sense of it is that housing complexes (y’know, where people ‘socialize’) have been identified as a key area to target in hopes of reducing the violent crime rate.

3] Social media: The WPS tacitly acknowledges that Twitter and Facebook can be leveraged to great gain. However, the service plans to spend 2012 determining “our current and future opportunities” and not move towards integration of social media into their PIO strategy until 2013 at least. IMO: Way too late. Wayyy too late. Next year, policy guidelines for use of social media by officers and civilians in the WPS will be drawn up.

4] New internal discipline procedure (implemented in 2013): “Employ education-based discipline.” Hmm. I’ll reserve comment for now. Since the public knows so little about the current internal discipline regime, It’s hard to be fair in evaluating what ‘education-based’ discipline means.

5] Civilianizing positions currently held by officers. This could be huge, and save the city a bunch of bucks in the long run. My understanding is that there’s a hiring freeze on civilian police positions currently in place that — if the plan goes forward as, er, planned, will end as of 2013 as the goal of moving more uniformed officers off of desks takes shape.

Those are things that strike me as noteworthy on the surface. )

Now: For people getting on the case of police brass for the substance of the plan and how long it’s taken to get such a document out to the public, I’d remind them of a few things:

1] Since McCaskill took the chief’s job, there’s been a number of new and positive things happening on his watch: Number one, police cadets. Number two, community support units in the districts to tackle area-specific crime investigations. Number 3: Report cars to tackle non-emergency calls and free up cars for service. Four: the hiring of Crime Analysts to drill down into data and reports and make connections about crime trends that aren’t always immediately apparent. This list isn’t comprehensive, but just what pops to mind.

There’s been some setbacks too: Problems in the 911 call centre, a lack of focus on traffic enforcement and initiatives to make city streets safer, criticism for allegedly blowing off downtown safety issues, technology glitches. Lack of a defined strategic plan and process for the last 15 years.

And, perhaps most importantly: A high violent crime rate that the cops didn’t create in the first place but are tasked with cleaning up.

At the end of the day, no booklet of bureaucratic plans is going to fix everything the city ails from, crime-wise. I commend the department for releasing the document, regardless if it’s a little lacking on substantive details.

It’s unfair to expect the WPS to have all the answers.

However, it’s equally unfair for the department to ever seem puzzled that the public would ever question police priorities, plans, motives and operations. In this day and age, “trust us” just isn’t a valid response.

Hopefully the Roadmap will help allay fears and criticism that the WPS is too reactive and too secretive.

Got a question over the Twitter yesterday about a comment McCaskill made about a “crime czar” position in the city. He was responding to a Stacey Ashley question about innovation.

Here’s what he said, FTR:

“And this is something I believe Edmonton is doing a little bit of something about, and that term is mine, basically.

But — an administrator that can look at different types of thins that are happening in the community where police and other departments can feed that information and be more concentrated in a certain direction. Edmonton’s doing some of it, apparently.

There’s other documentation on how do you, how do you focus resources in a more effective way by utilizing not only city departments but other NGO’s and so on to be able to have a concentrated effort on fighting crime in other areas. That’s really … that’s something we’re looking at.”

When Stats Can released its latest Juristat numbers declaring Manitoba as the Crime Cap, Rick Linden made some interesting comments in an interview I did with him:

University of Manitoba criminologist Rick Linden said if Winnipeg is to truly make a dent in reducing crime, the city and province should consider setting up what he calls a “responsibility centre” to tackle the problem.

A key feature would be the appointment of a city crime czar with a crime-reduction mandate.

“We need to take a long-term perspective, put somebody in charge of that job and give them resources. We don’t do that now,” Linden said.

It’s pretty clear that if we’re going to dig ourselves out of the crime mess we’re seemingly always in, we need to innovate.

I, for one, would be very interested to see Linden’s idea take shape — and it looks as if the WPS may be too.

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Homicide and violence reduction

(James Turner)

It’s official. Winnipeg has broken its annual record for total number of homicides following the death of a man in the downtown Saturday.

That makes 35 ‘officially tallied’ killings (Criminal negligence causing death, dangerous driving causing death and impaired drive cause death cases aren’t counted.)

Now, it bears mentioning that five killings happened in once instance, during an alleged firebombing in Point Douglas this summer.

Nevertheless, here we are. A sad marker for our city, one that nobody likes to see.

On a positive note, I present here a few — a few — examples of what other cities with high rates of violent crime have tried to do to address the issue.

It’s interesting stuff all around.

1] Chicago:

Chicago’s CeaseFire program evaluation

2] Jacksonville, FLA.

Reducing Murder: A community response

3] District of Columbia

Homicide Reduction Strategy

4] Richmond, Virginia

Intelligence Led Policing

5] TAVIS Toronto (link)

The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy

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