The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) says officers are struggling to keep up as call volumes rise, and a public survey presented to the police board is showing the impact on citizens.
Winnipeg’s police brass is comparing its current response struggles to the wait times plaguing Manitoba’s health care system. Chief Danny Smyth and his executive team outlined a grim picture at the Police Board meeting Friday.
Calls for dispatch are upwards of 500 a day, while those for life threatening incidents are up 26 per cent from last year. The cases are also becoming more complex, requiring more resources.
Smyth says the 911 call centre is facing high turnover, overtime, and burnout, and needs additional staff.
“You can expect that I will be submitting an administrative report later this year likely to impact the ’23 budget,” said Smyth.
Public survey results show people are less satisfied with police overall compared to the last survey in 2019, in part because of response times. 73 per cent of respondents feel crime has increased since then.
The board also discussed the need for more police officers in Winnipeg. The survey shows that 49 per cent say the city doesn’t have enough officers, while 32 per cent say Winnipeg has the right amount.
Smyth says they should be considering hiring more officers.
“It’s certainly worthy of discussion, as you saw today the demand for service is outstripping the resources that we have,” he said.
A growing number of people say the police service is overfunded. Police board chair Markus Chambers says it all depends on what taxpayers want.
“If citizens want quicker response times or to have a police member there to dust for fingerprints and try to get that analysis to see if it’s part of a group, then yes we’re going to have to increase the resources,” said Chambers.
The issue could come up during contract negotiations between the city and the police union, and a new mayor and council are set to take the helm later this fall.
The survey – done by Prairie Research Associates – posed questions to 600 people. It was conducted from Aug. 15 – 21.