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A new police chief: Put the 'can' in candidate

What leadership skills and characteristics do you feel are important in a Chief of Police for the City of Winnipeg?

Winnipeg is looking for a new police chief and the final choice will be made by Anita Stenning, the city's Chief Administrative Officer. Part of the process is, of course, the obligatory "consultation" with the public.

The question above was the basis of a couple of public meetings this week to gauge what Joe Citizen sees as important in a chief. But Anita Stenning already knows the answer.

The people have been shouting it for months.

They want an anti-Ewatski.

Someone the direct opposite of the bumbler that's held the post for nine long years.

Someone who will make crimefighting and crime prevention his only priority.

The people don't want a politically correct hire. They know such a person will make decisions based on political correctness that serves to justify his -- or her -- hiring.

They don't want "hope".
They don't want "effort".
They want results.

They want Bill Bratton.

Bill Bratton was the Chief of Police who cleaned up New York City in the Nineties. Supported by the political clout of Mayor Rudy Guiliani, he implemented a "quality of life" policing model on an initially reluctant police force.

The two main pillars of the New York Model are the use of computerized crime stats to uncover crime clusters that can be attacked by moving police resources into the area quickly, and an emphasis on disrupting petty crimes and anti-social behaviour like panhandling, squeegee kids, graffiti, public intoxication and street prostitution which make people feel unsafe in their own neighbourhoods and which are harbingers of more serious crimes.

It worked like a charm, and by the end of the decade New York had become the safest large city in the United States.

Detractors couldn't let this happen.

Criminologists hate the idea that policing can make a difference. So they had to come up with some excuse why the Guiliani-Bratton success, wasn't.

First they claimed it was just a fluke. That crime had been falling all over the U.S. anyway and Guiliania and Bratton were claiming credit for something that would have happened without them. Demographics. Fewer young males, post baby boom, meant less crime, see.

But that didn't explain why New York went from the bottom of the scale to the top. So the latest variation on the theme is---abortion. Kill enough boy babies and crime goes down, see.

The only problem was that Bill Bratton wasn't listening.

He became Chief of Police in Los Angeles in 2002---AND DID IT AGAIN.

The stats are breathtaking:
* In the first 18 months of his hiring, the number of murders in LA dropped 20 percent.

* Between 2003 and 2005 violent crime fell 38 percent and property crime fell 17 percent.

* In the first six months of 2006, the year over year number of murders was down another 24 percent.

* Gang-related murders were down by 32 percent.

* The per capita crime rate for violent crimes remained below the 1956 level for the second year in a row.

* By year's end property crime had dropped 9%, more than triple the national decline of 2.6%.

Oh, and Los Angeles is now the second safest big city in the U.S., behind New York.

Criminologists are beyond puzzled. Was there a spike in abortions of males in L.A. 18 years ago?

In fact, Bratton was so successful in L.A. that he has been hired for another five year term.


We've said it before and we'll say it again.
Winnipeg needs a police chief with the word "can" in his vocabulary.

For far, far too long we've lived with a police service that can't. You know the drill:

Shut down the crack house in the neighbourhood.
We can't get a search warrant to get enough evidence.
The evidence is the steady steam of buyers who stop for a few seconds and exchange money for something that fits in a fist.

Seeing the police would scare off the customers.
We can't put a police officer outside a house all day.
No, not until somebody gets murdered outside the crack house. When that happens the police force can find a dozen officers to sit outside the house for days on end.

( Or unless a mayor throws a street party. Then the police chief can find 40 officers doing nothing in particular and send them to party down. )

We've hired more police officers.
Ten highly trained officers to babysit car thieves and six more to wear their shiny uniforms in schools around town. It sure beats staking out a crack house any day.

The first thing Bill Bratton told his command staff when he got hired was that their jobs depended on crime going down. He got rid of half of L.A.'s deputy chiefs who didn't get the message.

Guess what? Crime went down.

So far the only potential candidate who seems to get the message is former Winnipeg Police Chief Dave Cassels (1996-l998).

He says the right things. He promoted community policing in his short stay in Winnipeg, even though he left before we saw what he meant and how far he would go to make it work.

"Understanding the concept of 'broken windows" is central to police work." he wrote in an op-ed piece Tuesday. That's a good start and it makes him the man to beat, so far.

Anita Stenning, meanwhile, drowns the process in bureaucratic bafflegab and eyeglazing pop psychology jargon.

She's looking, she told CJOB, "for someone who is really passionate about and dedicated to the wellness of the community and of the service."

"What does that look like in a Police Chief?" she asked.

" It is about somebody who really does inspire and rally people around a goal. It's somebody who is optimistic about that future. Somebody who is strategic, that has that interpersonal savvy, that ability to bring people around when you have those multiple, legitimate, competing priorities with finite resources."

The person has to have "a leadership style that listens and legitimately responds in a strategic way to the feedback that they get."

Stenning said she's looking for someone who "responds in a strategic way with solutions, not in a reactionary way to each complaint or each lobbying effort... but is open to that feedback but you see that translated into strategic long-term solutions. So they have to be able to demonstrate that from behaviour in the past that we can measure on how they responded, that it's part of their philosophy. I'm not looking for theoretical answers."

Translated into real speech:

blah blah blah strategic blah blah blah strategic blah blah blah strategic blah blah answers.

The people have spoken.

Now the question is whether a person who can't string together a sentence that an ordinary person can understand, is capable of understanding what the people have said loud and clear.

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