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Inner City residents gave Police Advisory Board an earful of good advice

Well, well, well....What a different message we get when people in the Inner City are allowed to speak for themselves free from the filters of strident native ideologues and Marxist university professors.

It turns out that what they say is diametrically the opposite of what we've been told by these very intermediaries who, we can now clearly see, have been twisting the public's words to fit their own private agendas.

The Winnipeg Police Advisory Board should be applauded for letting the voice of the people be heard at last. The board's first annual report was delivered to city council late last week. Within its pages we can hear what Inner City residents really think about the police.

What an eyeopener.

It turns out the residents of the most crime-ridden centres of town welcome the police. They want more police. They want to help the police to do their jobs better.

Their biggest complaint is that intimidation by gangs and drug dealers keeps them from providing the police with more tips and more intelligence.

The most significant insight flowing from the advisory board report is how, while police and the public want to work toward the same goals, there's often a fundamental mismatch in approach.

Take community policing. Everyone agrees its a good thing. But we see that police and the residents of the Inner City are talking at cross purposes.

The people want to see Officer O'Malley walking down their streets. They want to get to know Officer O'Malley by name and him to know them. They want to wave at him, to offer him home-baked cookies, to tell their children that is they're in trouble to go find Officer O'Malley. They want to trust Officer O'Malley because he's a part of their community, so that they can whisper to him when they see drug dealers or gang members or prostitutes infect the neighbourhood.

The police, on the other hand, don't want their officers identified. They've been victims of gang intimidation themselves. Homes of police officers have been firebombed. Their cars have been shot at. They've been attacked in restaurants. They want to make it harder for drug dealers to identify them, not easier.

The current version of community policing is to have more cruiser cars being more visible driving through the neighbourhood, and something called "community support" which seems to be working with "community leaders" to address specific problems.

The police advisory board says they found the public understanding of the hard job police have.

What the Board heard…about police response
• Although they complained about poor police response, ineffectiveness with problem children, and lack of physical police presence, residents also expressed empathy with the job that individual police have to do, the burden of paperwork, the problems created by the revolving door of the justice system, and the systemic problems of family breakdown, poverty, etc. that police are not able to address.

But there's frustration and confusion over the rules of reporting crimes and getting police to come.

What the Board heard…about police response
• Some do not understand how police prioritize their responses. Long delays for seemingly significant events, or non-attendance, were cited.
Police response was seen as less likely when children were involved as perpetrators, particularly under 12

It's obvious to an outside observer that much of the miscommunication is a result of the class structure of the system; the problems of the poor are assigned a low priority compared to the priorities of the well-to-do.

From the report:

What the Board heard…
• The underlying factors in reporting from the public are distrust, fear and a reported lack of knowledge of each others’ reality. Some feel that police may dismiss complaints unjustly, thinking the callers are motivated by “one dealer finking on another dealer”.

"In the WPS General Survey some respondents reported that when they phoned the police they were told to go to a police service center, something many can not do. The survey also notes that internet crime reporting, while “a good idea” has not caught on with the public, and is also limited by an individual’s access to a computer."

Police were asked to "treat break-ins to detached garages with the same seriousness as break-ins to attached garages." There are very, very few attached garages in the North End and City Centre, so this priority automatically sends police resources to richer areas of the city.

Police were asked to " investigate smaller thefts in the inner city since poor people can’t afford replacement and do not have tenants/house insurance." That's only common sense, but how to adjust police resources under a city-wide priority dispatch system? Officer O'Malley would be one answer.

"Midnight to 6am is reported as being the period of the most concern. Police should concentrate more resources or “flying squad” during those times." Again, common sense.

But what message does the police department send these people when it delivers round-the-clock protection to Lloyd Axworthy's University of Winnipeg for a week because some anonymous person scrawled a vague message in the toilet? "You don't matter," it tells Inner City parents. "We're too short-staffed to protect your children. Lloyd needs us more."

Threats? The residents of the Inner City say they live with threats on a daily basis, not the occasional scrawl on a wall.

What the Board heard
• Residents mention crimes, but emphasize the whole notion of widespread intimidation and fear.

There's obvious frustration with getting the attention of police in high-crime areas. In turn, the police may be frustrated with the public for not helping themselves with programs designed to deter crime such as Neighbourhood Watch, Citizens for Crime Awareness, and Graffiti Reduction which are showing a decline in awareness and participation rates. But there's a fatigue factor at work. Neighbourhood Watch is just unpaid patrols to make up for a lack of real police patrols. And what's the sense of endless graffiti reduction when nothing is being done to stop the graffiti in the first place?

What the Board heard…about police response
* The potential benefit from the use of technology in residential areas is recognized. i.e. Cameras, cell phones, etc. Using cameras in high crime areas was suggested

The most heartbreaking segment of the WPAB report is reading about the lives of children in the Inner City and realizing how desperate their parents are to give them decent, normal lives.

Crime Prevention and Children
In some Winnipeg neighbourhoods the physical and emotional safety of younger children is a daily concern for parents.

Victimization may be at the hand of other young children emulating the activities of older gang-involved youth. Early intervention is seen as one important part of what needs to be a broad-based solution to de-motivate future offenders. Truancy by school-age children should be actively pursued, and when at-risk children and youth are involved in troubling but not criminal activity there should be immediate follow-up with parents. Police are expected to assist, but the neighbouhood still saw the solution ultimately coming from the larger community, with the active involvement of parents and children.

What the Board heard
• Much concern on victimization of children
• bullying and intimidation at/after school
• younger and younger children lured by drug trade and being involved in the delivery of illegal drugs
• 11 and 12 year old females regularly stalked by males in cars;
• Very young children (6-7) from “gangs” bully and steal from even younger children
• Gang activity is central to young children becoming victims and offenders
• Summer sees increased gang activity

• There was a significant amount of call for more attention to crimes by children, often with children as victims. After-school patrolling, school resource officers and other programs were desirable.

But, but, but...haven't we been told that the community hates and fears police?

Here's the police board's report on that.

"Complaints were made about police insensitivity to people who were different, but the most persistent complaint was that officers target Aboriginal Peoples."

But given that the rest of the board's report is a reflection of the people who spoke up at public meetings, and it was obvious that many of those people were "aboriginal peoples" themselves, then we can see the worst complaints come from a sliver of a minority of Winnipeggers.

Oh, and "Diversity targets that were identified in the recommendations of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry have reportedly been surpassed..."

Here's some of what else the advisory board heard:

• The responding police may be feared for a number of reasons. Previous bad experience locally can be one reason, but some fear of police is imported by newcomers from their country of origin.
• Children may reflect the attitudes and beliefs of their elders and run at the sight of police.

Immigrants from lawless countries bring their fear of state police with them, and somehow this is a bad reflection of the Winnipeg police? And people are indoctrinating children to fear the police?

Child welfare authorities recently acted to separate a child from her parent who espoused white supremacist beliefs; shouldn't we do the same for parents who inculcate hatred of police authorities in their children?

Every message goes down a bit easier with humour. The advisory board did its part in the section of their report called Police and Cultural Diversity.

What the Board heard…
• Cross cultural/sensitivity training was recommended, (Aboriginal culture, sex-trade workers)
• There are community groups willing to assist in training police in these areas.

We bet there are. There are scads of community groups just dying to justify their existence by being "willing to assist in training police" in how to be nicer to crack whores and cross-dressing she-male hustlers.

And, of course, there's the ever-popular "aboriginal culture" industry. Been there. Done that.

After the AJI the Winnipeg police force was overrun with cultural training. But when car thief Matthew Dumas tried to kill a Winnipeg policeman and got shot for his effort, where did all that cross-cultural goodwill go?

The native politicians all jumped to support the criminal and blame the police officer (who turned out to be one of their own). Even after the inquest proved the police officers at the scene acted properly, the aboriginal demagogues and their aboriginal lawyer declared they still refused to believe the evidence and that the police were wrong.

One of those blame-the-police (always) run-at-the-mouths sits on the police advisory board.

Now that's a laugh.

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