The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holla homies. The police chief in Murderpeg has a plan.

So you're the police chief in Murderpeg.

Four years after you got the job, the city is setting a record in the number of homicides, StatsCan has named us the most violent city in Canada, and Pollyanna the Mayor is fighting with the national airline that says downtown is too dangerous to bunk its crews overnight.

The murder rate would be double if it wasn't for the skill of the medical professionals who keep saving the lives of the daily victim of a shooting or stabbing. The Rock Machine is fighting the Hell's Angels while street gangs have overrun half the city. And a spree killer is still on the loose a year after he gunned down one man outside a house, one man inside a house and gut-shot a teenaged girl on the street for no reason except to see her die. (She lived.)

Wouldn't you know it, the uppity politicians and public started asking what you were going to do about it. Apparently a helicopter that keeps communities awake half the night isn't enough.

So late last week, Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill released The Roadmap, A Strategic Plan for 2012-2014.

Written in impenetrable bureaucratese, padded out with pictures and pages of blather about vision and mission statements and touchy/ feely platitudes, the 48-page report outlines how the police service hopes to operate over the next three years leading up to the next civic election. The buzz word du jour is apparently 'relationships.'

Some of it's been reported, some hasn't and almost none of it has been discussed.

McCaskill begins his "relationship" with the citizens of Winnipeg by telling them they're stupid, they don't know what they're talking about, and their fears about crime are the result of their boneheaded "perceptions", not reality. Way to go, Keith.

"Street disorder in Winnipeg's downtown core and the high crime rate areas negatively impacts our citizens perception of personal safety. Some causes of street disorder include behaviours such as urban camping, aggressive panhandling, fighting, open drug sales and graffiti."
"Although overall violent crime is decreasing, many Winnipeggers perceive that violent crime is on the rise, and believe it poses the greatest danger to their safety and security."
Nevertheless, forced to pander to the public, McCaskill promised more foot patrols, plus bicycle patrols. But the real story was in the small print.
He intends, he wrote, to add 500 hours of each. Sounds good, until you realize policemen work in pairs.

That translates to two police officers walking a beat for 250 hours a year, or, at the rate of an eight-hour day, roughly one month. Ditto for the bicycle cops.
Should we slot the pledge of a month of beat cops under perception of crime fighting or reality?
McCaskill's violent crime strategy includes the goal of the crime of assault by 9 percent over 3 years, muggings by 3 percent and sexual assault by 3 percent. How did they arrive at the exact figure of 3 percent over 3 years? Who knows.
But before mocking the police, read what we wrote in The Black Rod four months ago when we detected that something good was happening on the crime front and we challenged the MSM -- find out what was behind it ?
The MSM "journalists" did their usual, and waited for a press conference. We, meanwhile, noticed that crimes such as muggings were down 4 percent or more in some parts of town in one year. That makes McCaskill's goals seem modest.
The Chief of Police is also promising to make downtown safer (or seem safer) by boosting the number of police you'll see during "major events." Does that mean all Jets games?
On the flip side, McCaskill says the police service will reduce the personnel assigned to parades and escorts. In the same vein, they will be reassessing their participation on boards and committees to see which "partnerships" are still useful and which are not. Expect some noses to be out of joint over those decisions.
Buried deep, deep, deep in the report is this gem:
Develop and implement a community-based crime prevention and reporting mechanism for citizens
Translation: In high crime areas McCaskill wants to replicate Powerline, the community tip line that activists in Point Douglas credit for clearing crack houses out of the neighbourhood.
For McCaskill's role in setting up the first Powerline, see here:
The crime strategy is big on proactive, intelligence-based policing. McCaskill sees a big role for Crimestat. Here's how retired Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias, who helped set the program up initially, described it's function:
http://mennozacharias.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/using-crimestat-to-best-advantage/
"For the casual observer, Crimestat is simply a website that displays crime statistics and crime maps. For police, it’s significance is far greater. Crimestat is a management and accountability strategy that directs police commanders to concentrate on emerging crime issues and trends in the area under their command. It forces them to track criminal activity in their area, identify emerging crime trends, develop effective tactics, and deploy resources quickly to deal with emerging trends in their early stages before they develop into a full blown crime spree. Lastly, there is follow-up and assessment by the executive. This is the accountability feature of the process that ensures everyone (commanders in particular) have their eyes ‘focused on the ball’, the ball being crime prevention and crime reduction."

The Winnipeg police service has not been using Crimestat to its fullest, but McCaskill has seen the light, belatedly. He plans on hiring and training crime analysts to
"Implement Intelligence led, Evidence-based, Predictive Policing Models."
The report contains a section headlined Innovation and Technology in which McCaskill writes:
"Advances in technology can be employed for a variety of uses, including analysis of breath samples taken from impaired drivers, and retrieval of real-time information on criminals and their activities. The Service is planning and budgeting to stay on top of the latest technological trends affecting numerous facets, including disclosure and how we conduct investigations. Staying current is not easy, and often very expensive."
Blah, blah, blah.

What's missing? Any mention of SECURITY CAMERAS in high crime areas.

Apparently that technology hasn't made its way into the police brains yet. Maybe that's why they're setting another crime record in Winnipeg--- for the most unsolved homicides in a single year.
The McCaskill report also raises a few issues that presage much butting of heads in the future.
Let's start with the most contentious.
* The Service will introduce education-based discipline as an alternative to traditional punitive discipline. (Page 30)
This is much like the policy of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority when dealing with doctors. They now encourage doctors to come forward without fear of discipline or prosecution whenever there's a serious incident, including a death. The idea is to find out what went wrong and correct the mistake in future without destroying the reputation of the highly-trained doctor. It both protects the morale of the institution and improves service, although its done behind closed doors.
As for applying the same principle to police --- hoo boy. Is this going to raise a ruckus. Already there are elements of the community (read Marxist sociology professors and their ilk) who accuse the police of widespread coverups of police wrongdoing. The existing LERA process is condemned as not working due to the paucity of successful complaints. Oh, and the NDP government is trying as hard as it can to send a policeman to prison, any police officer will do, to send a message to their social worker constituency that they agree that police are the bad guys and criminals are poor victims of society.
And now even fewer police will be punished? Watch the fireworks fly.
* Under the heading Develop Crime Prevention Partnership Program, the report suggests the police will:
"Work with partners to address problems in multi-unit residences."
So far, so good. But then, further in, they elaborate on the partnership.
Strategy:
The Crime Free Multi-housing program will give apartment owners and managers the power to evict or deny residency to those residents who partake in criminal or nuisance activities.
Oh yeah? You think so? Provincial authorities might have a different view of the rights of tenants to stay.

And the homelessness initiative that the NDP backs strongly is based on inserting troublesome transients into housing that would otherwise be troublefree.
Good luck bucking that pressure group, even in the name of public safety. The NDP was willing to see people killed and maimed by car thieves every year rather than risk angering the aboriginal lobby by taking the (mostly aboriginal) juveniles into custody for their own safety if nothing else.
And lastly, there's the elephant in the room.

* McCaskill outlines a model built on accountability. He even names the senior officers who will be held responsible for achieving the goals of the strategic plan.
"The principle of authority and accountability is one of the most
important concepts necessary to ensure everyone within the
organization understands what decisions they can make, and what
direction they can give. Without clearly defined levels of authority,
members and supervisors can become unsure of what they can or
cannot do.Working in an environment such as this causes
paralysis in decision-making and a lack of confidence. Additionally, it
opens the process up for excessive discussion, compromise and
momentum loss. Recognizing that authority must be clearly stated and delegated, accountability is the control mechanism that is designed to prevent insufficient decisionmaking and/or abuse of authority."
Currently ,the Chief of Police reports to the Chief Administration Officer of the City of Winnipeg, writes McCaskill. But in the wings is a new creation of the provincial government---the Police Services Act which threatens to muddle the lines of authority and accountability and undo elements of the plan.
"The Act defines provisions relating to how the Chief of Police will report to a Police Board, how investigations involving police conduct will be handled, and other issues associated with training and equipment."
"... A number of regulations are currently being developed and may have a substantial impact on how policing is done in Manitoba."
McCaskill is too much of a team player to criticize the provincial government, so instead he throws out a red flag so he can say later, 'well, I warned you there might be trouble.'
The police board, already stuffed with people antagonistic to the force, will be an alternate line of authority and accountability and the public will suffer for it.

The good, the bad and the ugly of McCaskill's strategic plan. You decide which is which.

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