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.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The new crime strategy: McCaskill comes to the party late.

More than a year ago, in a blog post, retired Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias ripped back the curtain from some of the most secret inner workings of the Winnipeg Police Service.

What he wrote was astonishing---and never more relevant than today, on the heels of Police Chief Keith McCaskill's much anticipated crime strategy.

Perhaps shocked at breaching the blue code of silence, Zacharias later refused to give more details and never returned to the point despite our best prodding. The mainstream media ignored his comments entirely.

To put his observations in context you need to know that it's been 15 years since New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his hand-picked police commissioner Bill Bratton wrote the book on fighting crime in the big city. Proving that their method wasn't a fluke, Bratton later moved right across the country to Los Angeles and recreated his success in reducing the crime rate by phenomenal amounts.

Giuliani and Bratton designed a system based on detecting crime trends in neighbourhoods early (through a computer analysis they called Compstat), intervening quickly before the trends could spread, and making police commanders responsible for devising solutions in their areas. This was supplemented by a "broken windows" philosophy of not tolerating social crimes (graffiti, panhandling, prostitution, street drug dealing, squeegee men) which undermine a community's character and create an atmosphere where more serious crimes will be committed.

When he was first elected in 2006, Mayor Sam Katz declared he was committed to the crime fighting methods of Giuliani and Bratton, and he soon found a fervent ally in Menno Zacharias. When Zacharias retired in 2008 upon the selection of McCaskill as Chief, Katz made a point of telling the press that he had worked closely with the deputy.

"On a personal note, Menno Zacharias was very instrumental in setting up CrimeStat, was a major ally and help to make that a reality, believed in it," the mayor said. "I personally thank him for that, and I wish him all the best in his future." (CBC News)

But it wasn't until two years later that we got a hint of what was going on within the police department when he retired--- and afterward

Zacharias wrote:

"Crimestat was designed to be a tool to track crime in our city’s neighbourhoods. It does that very well. The process has a proven record in helping to combat crime throughout major cities in North America. In order for it to be effective the tool must be used in the manner it was designed to be used. All players in the system must understand and execute their roles. Division Commanders must stay on top of crime in their area, identify trends and devise effective tactics to deal with them. The Police Executive must be fully engaged and ensure the resource is used as intended."

"The executive of the Winnipeg Police Service does not appear to understand or appreciate the capabilities of Crimestat and that could explain why they have largely turned their backs on it. A key aspect of the Crimestat process centers on accountability. The Executive needs to hold Division Commanders accountable. Accountability is exercised most visibly during Crimestat meetings. That cannot happen if the Executive does not attend Crimestat meetings. Residents of Winnipeg have a vested interest in the overall safety of all neighbourhoods."

"Winnipeggers need Crimestat to work."

McCaskill, it turned out, had a different philosophy to policing---the social work model. He wasn't focused on fighting crime; his priority he said repeatedly, was in listening to the community and working with them on solutions.

The "community" told McCaskill they wanted more police in their neighbourhoods and they wanted the police to fight the gangs, remove the drug dealers and prostitutes, stop the random shootings and arsons, and put an end to the graffiti marring their homes and garages. In other words, stop talking and start fighting crime.

After three years of "listening" and seeing his "holistic", social worker approach to crime fail miserably, McCaskill cobbled together a crime strategy to get the public off his back.

Wouldn't you know it, the core of his crime strategy is detecting crime trends early, intervening quickly, and holding police commanders accountable.
Nobody in the MSM asked him why he wasted three years before adopting the successful model that Zacharias had been spearheading way back when.
Or whether (and how) he had forced his top commanders to buy-in.
Or if they have.

Next: The McCaskill crime strategy under a microscope. The good, the bad and the ugly.

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