Manitoba Daily

Monday, December 6, 2021

A contentious finance committee meeting raises concerns about Winnipeg police control

Key sentence:

  • The committee eventually voted three to one to accept up to $7.3 million in budget overspending for 2021. 
  • Rollins introduced a resolution demanding that the Winnipeg Police Service propose ways to save $5.7 million by the end of the year.

A heated debate at the city’s finance committee exposed profound uncertainty among council members and the Winnipeg Police Board about who controls the city’s police department.

The subject of the debate was a request to approve millions of dollars in new policing costs. The committee eventually voted three to one to accept up to $7.3 million in budget overspending for 2021. 

To get there, councillors debated among themselves and with police board members about who has the right to audit the Winnipeg Police Service’s costs.

Also read: Concerns about emergency room service in rural Manitoba are rising

“I think this meeting will be remembered as the point at which we lost citizen supervision of the Winnipeg Police Service,” stated Coun. Sherri Rollins.

In October, Rollins introduced a motion requesting that the Winnipeg Police Service offer solutions for saving $5.7 million by the year’s conclusion.

She was also the lone vote opposing funding approval.

According to the WPS and the police board, there are no saving possibilities.

WPS Chief Danny Smyth went before the committee on Friday, along with board chair Coun. Markus Chambers and secretary Shauna Curtin declare they had looked at all options and found none that would not damage the police service.

“It’s getting close to the end of the year. The funds have been spent. “Curtin stated that the police department was not required to answer to the committee’s request for choices.

Fractious finance committee meeting reveals doubts over Winnipeg police  oversight

Rollins and Coun. John Orlikow of the committee questioned why the police board was present, responding to questions made directly to the police service.

“I don’t even know who I’m talking to,” Orlikow admitted.

“It demonstrates to the public how perplexing our connection is — via the Winnipeg Police Board and the Winnipeg Police Service. Are we just a check-writing machine, or do we have additional responsibilities?”

Chambers stated that the board could assess fiscal issues concerning the police force and the effects of budget cuts on the service.

“So the argument that there must be more monitoring, I feel, calls into question the credibility of the Winnipeg Police Board, which is responsible for analysing the risks that are brought forward to us depending on budgetary constraints,” he said.

Given that salaries account for 86% of the police budget and are mainly covered by collective agreements, there was little room for significant cuts this fiscal year, according to Curtin.

At the meeting, Rollins made two motions.

She requested that the committee looks into gaining more authority to supervise police funding. The motion was approved.

A second move to distribute the police budget in quarterly instalments, with the possibility to withhold funding if queries were not satisfactorily answered, was defeated.

Source: Global News

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