City Council Journalism Assignment

“Citizens on the street want more feet on the street,” proclaimed Mayor Sam Katz at the first city council meeting of 2011, which saw Katz put forward a motion to accept the proposed addition of 58 officers to the Winnipeg Police Service.

Katz said the money will be taken from the operating budget but didn’t elaborate.  He said the cost this year would be just over a million dollars.  Other council members, however, pointed out that the figure is over and above the current cost of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Coun. John Orlikow agreed with the motion but added that he agreed “with reservations.”  He placed the cost of the Winnipeg Police Service for the year of 2010 at “six million plus equipment, which would put it up to somewhere in the seven to eight million dollar range.”

Coun. Russ Wyatt, however, estimated the number to be “five to seven million in terms of full cost.” He also said that with past increases in the Winnipeg Police Service he has “not seen how additional resources have been more visible.”

Coun. Ross Eadie mirrored this concern, adding that additional officers are only “reacting to the problem” and not being proactive in dealing with the underlying problem.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said it’s “pretty hard to oppose additional officers” but worried where that $1.1 million was coming from.  She agreed that it should be more about reducing crime instead of enforcing.  She wondered how they were going to pay for it without taking away from programs that prevent crime.

Davis Penner, 24, a resident of Jenny Gerbasi’s Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Ward felt that the additional officers are “always a good idea” but stressed that things need to be done to “prevent crime from happening in the first place instead of spending all this money on helicopters and stuff to catch people who’ve already committed a crime.”

Coun. Justin Swandel said “we can’t keep spending money on officers and not measure the results.”  More police aren’t the only solution, “we need integrated resources that foster healthy communities that look after their own children.”

The councillors voted unanimously in favour of the motion and the motion was carried.

“What we really didn’t get today were financial answers,” said Gerbasi, after the Council had convened. “It has to come from somewhere.”  And where exactly in the operating budget would the cost of 58 new officers come from? “I don’t have that answer.”

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