The head of the police union says the city’s top cop has to stay focused on Winnipeg, and not on a plum position in a national organization.
Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth has been nominated for president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police; the group will chose its leader at its annual general meeting in July.
Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said Smyth must take himself out of contention immediately, in light of concerns about violent crime, increased police overtime and poor morale, which the union blames on a leadership vacuum.
“Especially following this past weekend of probably one of the most violent weekends in Winnipeg in history, and there are so many other issues with rising crime, with our extremely low morale problem, to take on another role… really just doesn’t make sense,” Sabourin told the Free Press Tuesday.
“That position will take him away from… the Winnipeg Police Service, for probably about 40 per cent of the time that he should be back home and trying to fix the things that are broken around here.”
Smyth has sat on the board of directors of the national association, representing Manitoba, since 2018.
“The chief will not be making a comment at this time,” police public affairs manager Kelly Dehn said Tuesday.
Sabourin noted an officer with more than 20 years of experience described last weekend as the worst he’s seen. The service couldn’t meet the minimum standard of 28 two-person cruiser cars per shift. It dipped to a low of 25 cars.
He said Smyth must address general patrol resources and the redeployment of detectives from police headquarters into district stations.
Former police chief Jack Ewatski, who headed the service from 1998 to 2007, held a two-year term as president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police from 2005 to 2007.
Sabourin, who wasn’t union president at the time, said Ewatski’s participation wasn’t an issue.
“We really didn’t have the same leadership problem. Jack Ewatski was not a popular man, but he still looked out for the troops.”
Smyth’s contract as chief is up in November 2023. Sabourin said he wants the Winnipeg Police Board, in tandem with Smyth, to begin a search for a new top cop.
Coun. Markus Chambers, who heads the police board, could not be reached for comment.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.