Manitoba takes action on training police amid several police casualties nationwide

According to Statistics Canada data on police personnel and expenditures in Canada, police strength across the country declined in 2022 from the previous year.

Manitoba takes action on training police amid several police casualties nationwide
Facebook/ Winnipeg Police Service
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In recent months, metropolitan areas have seen a spike in random violence, with fatal stabbings and shootings making headlines nationwide. Winnipeg had back-to-back-to-back violent altercations from April 9 thru April 11 with knives and guns, leading to hospitalizations.

According to the police service's 2021 statistical report, violent crime in Winnipeg rose 5% in 2021, with local law enforcement responding to more than 670,000 calls. The report also uncovered nearly 11,000 violent crime cases in the city that year.

Notably, gun crime observed a 27% increase over the past five years — and homicides remain high for the third consecutive year. Police contend they are clearing murder cases at a high rate. 

Winnipeg also observed a record number of homicides last year, including the deaths of four Indigenous women allegedly at the hands of a serial killer. 

"Starting immediately, police services in Manitoba will be getting the support they need [and] have long deserved," said Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson in January, intensifying her messaging on public safety.

She announced new measures that include $3 million in funding for a violent offenders police unit. She explained the unit would locate perpetrators of violent crime in Winnipeg and communities throughout the province. 

The Manitoba Tories pledged to give them the necessary tools and resources to take offenders into custody. Public safety proponents also encouraged standardized training for all police in the province to make everyone safer.

According to Statistics Canada data on police personnel and expenditures in Canada, police strength across the country declined in 2022 from the previous year. 

As of May 15, 2022, there were 70,566 police officers in Canada, 406 more than in 2021, representing a rate of police strength of 181 officers per 100,000 population — a decrease from 2021. Most provinces saw their police forces decline upwards of 3%, whereas Manitoba did not see a decline. 

Following the Black Lives Movement protests in 2020, major cities like Calgary and Victoria faced calls to defund the police.

In March, the Victoria Police Board pushed back against Victoria city council after requesting $6 million more than last year — a 9.55% increase. If tied to the cost of inflation, the net budget would only increase by $4.345 million.

The Board's Finance Committee chair Doug Crowder wrote on February 23 that such a budget reduction would threaten its ability to deliver policing services to the community adequately. However, the council can reject their assertions under the Police Act.

In 2021, Mayor Jyoti Gondek — then-councillor for Calgary's Ward 3 — and eight colleagues on the Calgary city council removed $20 million from the Calgary Police Service budget. Recently, a wave of violent, sometimes fatal crime has hit the city despite shootings being down 37% compared to the same period in 2022.

"Each province is like an island unto itself. We create our standards…, but in terms of a national standard, that is the desire of policing right across this country," said former Winnipeg Police Service chief Devon Clunis.

"At this point, there's not a national standard across this country," he said. "What we hope to do in this province is come up with standards that I hope will be adopted by other provinces and become the national standard."

"Currently, we don't have province-wide consistency when it comes to training," Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a news conference on April 4, alongside Clunis, who the province hired last November to devise a training strategy that's "equitable, consistent and culturally relevant."

"This is an important day when it comes to the future of policing in our province," said Goertzen. "We've seen nine police officers lose their lives in Canada over the last several months. We know it's a difficult job. It's a dangerous job."

Clunis likened the recent police homicides on the job to the "canary in the coal mine."

Notably, two Edmonton police officers died on March 16 while responding to a domestic disturbance at a Northwest apartment complex. A young male gunned both officers down, who died on their way to receive medical attention at a nearby hospital.

On March 27, 20-year veteran Sgt. Maureen Breau of the Quebec provincial police force died from a fatal stabbing when she tried to arrest a suspect in Louiseville for uttering threats. 

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) urgently requested a meeting this month with the premiers to discuss how best to protect Canadians and police officers from rising violent crime. Association President Chief Danny Smyth wrote Stefanson, the chair of the Council of the Federation, which represents all 13 premiers.

"In the last six months, we have lost nine officers — eight of them to random violence," writes Smyth. "The number of murders of police officers has resulted in stark comparisons with countries like the United States, to which we have never before found reason to compare."

"There is no question that the degradation of discourse around policing and police funding, the lack of accountability in our justice system, and the significant increase in drug, gang, and gun violence have all escalated the danger for our profession," it reads.

"If that is happening to the police officers out there, out front — what does that say about society, our community and our well-being?" added Clunis.

The former police chief co-chairs a 15-member steering committee consisting of serving and retired officers, academics and community members to develop a training strategy that will build relationships and train Manitoba police to serve their communities effectively. He said, "Nothing will have to be status quo."

As of writing, a deadline for the strategy has yet to be set.

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