Cart before the horse

vpd-strategic-plan-2008-2012

We have a much-ballyhooed helicopter, a cadet program and a fully-staffed Tac team. A new look and philosophy is coming, we’re told.

But more importantly, why doesn’t the Winnipeg Police Service have one of these?

Link to the document is at top of this post

I’m not trying to hijack Menno’s recent post. But after taking even a short glance through the VPD document — no doubt part plan, part PR move — you realize something.

The Winnipeg public has no publicly-available yardstick of what they can expect from the WPS.

On the most available communications forum, the winnipeg.ca/police website, I can find tons of useful and relevant information, like the code of ethics, descriptions of different facets of the force and most importantly, crime prevention and safety information.

But nowhere that I see can I find a document that shows what the WPS has identified as a crime problem, what’s going to be done about it and how the efficiency in getting the job done will be measured.

The VPD plan speaks plainly and openly about the problems the city has with non-resident fugitives, for example [that led to the Con-Air program in the mid  2000’s].

But just as important as being up front about the city’s crime problems, the VPD also proposes — and publicly states — how it will work on meeting a stated goal

“The VPD is committed to making Vancouver the safest major city in Canada.” – the goal

OK. that’s pretty nebulous and unwieldy. If I’m living in Vancouver, how is my police department going to get us there?

VPD says the road to getting there is by setting the following targets.

OK. great. Sounds peachy. I’m still thinking it sounds a little wonky and fluffy.

But, VPD says to the public, here’s how we’re gonna do it (one example presented only here, the rest are in the report):

So, from this, as a law-abiding member of the public who is concerned with property crime, I can say with certainty:

“The VPD has stated it will reduce property-related crime by 20 per cent by 2012 and said how it will do this. If by that time, they haven’t met their target, I’m going to do something about it — write letters, make phone calls, address the police board, vote differently etc).

And, I’ll be justified in doing it because I was promised ‘X’ and it wasn’t delivered.

In some sense, that’s accountability. Everyone who cares knows what’s going on, on a certain scale, I feel empowered as a citizen.

While I have every confidence the WPS brass has identified Winnipeg crime trends and is doing something about it, that confidence is based largely on faith, and not on anything tangible that’s been put before the public.

For example, Winnipeg’s particular problem of offenders thumbing their noses at court orders and breaching conditions makes me feel like I’m living under a persistent cloud of lawlessness.

Behind virtually every major violent crime is a prior offender who’s out on bail, parole, probation, a recognizance etc.

Police officers hate this as it demeans their position of authority. The public hates it because it makes the justice system look like a joke and feels like the criminal element is everywhere.

And while we have faith that the police will do their best to continually clean up the mess, do we — do they, the officers and the victims of crime — have any assurances from the brass that cracking down on reoffenders is a priority at all?

Other than comments made in the media should the issue come up, nope.

There’s no paper – save for a tiny city council report here and there – that demonstrates this issue (one that’s an example of many other crime issues in the city) is even on the WPS’ radar.

We got a helicopter that will cost millions to purchase, staff and operate with very little advance warning, public discussion or meaningful debate. It wasn’t even in the WPS business plan – something that no longer seems available to the public.

Somehow, the whirlybird became a priority and was immediately acted on, despite there being no clear stated goal for what it is supposed to accomplish and measurable performance indicators for how well it’s achieving that goal.

The WPS is a mega-million dollar business.

But without a clear planning document and public disclosure of what its priorities are for the city, it fails to look like a well-managed one to the people of Winnipeg.

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