The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Al Carron

Al Carron is an Inspector in the Winnipeg Police Service, District Four.


In 1999, the new Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service assigned an inspector to undertake an operational review of the organization. The mandate was to examine current operations with the goal of increasing effectiveness and efficiency. The review was to focus on five areas:

  • Uniform operations
  • Traffic patrol
  • Investigative services
  • Quality control
  • Service delivery.

When the review began, the city government acknowledged public safety was an important issue but promises had been made to reduce property taxes, which would put pressure on all city departments to reduce spending. In addition, the corporate overseers of city departments had a perception that the police budget was outpacing that of other city departments and changes needed to be made.

An operational review team was created comprising six police members representing all ranks of the Service. The criteria for selecting the members were breadth of experience, skill sets and established credibility with all ranks. With both the political and corporate community feeling a vested interest in the findings, it was decided to establish a process in which the two would have an understanding and some involvement in the review process. Accordingly, a steering committee was established to oversee and direct the review team while the study was underway. Regular monthly briefings were instituted in order that the review would remain focussed and help to ensure expectations from the various stakeholders were realized.

The steering committee comprised the Chief of Police, the Chief Administrative Officer for the City (corporate), the Manager of the Executive Policy Committee (political), the city councillor who sits as Chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Protection Services, and the Dean of the Faculty of Management at the University of Manitoba. In the early stages, the Operational Review team’s access to the Police Executive was limited, however, as the process moved forward both access and the direction received increased proportionately to the scope of changes being made. This was a significant factor in the team’s ability to move past obstacles created by those within the organization resisting change.


Early in the process the Review team proposed that there should be two components to the Review. The first component would be conducted by the operational review team and would include only operational areas of the Service. The intent here was to develop attainable changes that could be implemented within current budget and the restrictions of the collective agreement.

For the second component, the Service would engage external consultants, first to complete an independent assessment of work completed by the Operational Review Team, and secondly, to conduct an in-depth review of the Service’s support and administration branches. There would be no constraints on the consultants and proposals could include changes to budget and collective agreements.

These two phases together would create a full review process, while providing an environment in which significant proposals deemed urgent could be acted upon quickly.


The operational review team conducted their work in two phases:

Phase 1: Research and data collection

  1. Review of documents
    1. Previous audits, reviews, studies
    2. Current organizational structure and unit mandates
    3. Chief’s vision statement
    4. Statistical reports
    5. Staffing reports
    6. Collective Agreements
    7. Examination of previous surveys
    8. Government publications, professional periodicals and relevant books
  2. Interviews and inquiries
    1. A retreat was held with 38 officers of all ranks to identify issues
    2. Officer forums were held
    3. Individual officers were interviewed from all operational areas to seek their knowledge and ideas
    4. Issues raised in public forums and citizen surveys were tracked
    5. Winnipeg Police Senior Management
    6. Winnipeg Police Association
  3. Benchmarking with other Canadian cities
    1. Staffing levels
    2. Budgets
    3. Best practices
    4. Organizational structures
    5. Workload analysis

Phase 2: Analysis and change strategy

  1. Identify the need for change
  2. Develop a conceptual vision and attainable target
  3. Develop implementation strategies
  4. Develop performance measurements


During the process of identifying weaknesses and developing solutions, a conceptual vision of the Winnipeg Police Service began to emerge. The vision involved streamlining existing systems, such as the deployment of personnel, the arrest processing system and the call management system. This vision was articulated in 28 recommendations that, if implemented, would result in sweeping changes to the way the Winnipeg Police Service operated.

The most significant of these was to restructure the six operational districts to that of a four district model. This proposal included a business case to build three new police facilities to replace six aging police stations, with the costs of some being significantly offset with a reduction in administration.


Between 2000 and 2003, all recommendations to varying degrees were implemented throughout the Service. All operational districts have been affected and an expectation of continued improvement now exists throughout the Service.

In early 2001 the external review was completed. The consultants’ report endorsed the methodology and findings of the operational review team. In addition to the independent assessment portion of the report, a number of other recommendations were made.

All internal and external recommendations were studied by senior management during a series of working sessions in which eight strategic directions emerged. Encompassed within these strategic directions were the internal and external recommendations, which together created a template for change.

For the most part, the majority of changes made initially were internal to the organization and not necessarily visible to the public. The Service’s greatest challenge was to implement the four-district model owing to a number of factors. From the viewpoint of the public, this was the most controversial, as fewer police facilities would be seen as a reduction in police services. Secondly, if the public was concerned, so would be city councillors. Lastly, there was no provision for the costs of constructing the three new facilities in the six-year capital budget.

Overview of the Four-District Model

In 1974, in the era of the metropolitan corporation, the current six police districts were formed, based primarily along geographical boundaries and previous city borders. The Winnipeg Police Service continues to be contractually required to deploy throughout the city a minimum of 27 two-person uniform patrol units per shift, three shifts a day, seven days a week. The officers required to do this are deployed in six platoon schedules between each of the six districts for a total of 36 platoons.

Each platoon is required to have a sergeant perform the function of shift supervisor, and each district requires one sergeant to oversee district detectives and one inspector and one staff sergeant to oversee administration. Each one of the six districts is responsible for fielding a portion of the 27 units on each shift and distributes their personnel among their six platoons in order to provide 24/7 coverage. A staffing ratio of 18 officers to one patrol unit was established in order to field each one of these 27 units on a 24/7 basis. This ratio was reached by calculating the time an officer is unavailable for patrol, such as annual leave, acting, sick leave, training and other contractual leave provisions. This ratio provides the foundation for staffing distribution amongst the six districts.

The problem with the current six district configuration is that the number of units each district fields, ranges from a low of three units to a high of seven units. This creates a situation where districts responsible to field seven cars per shift have 21 constables per platoon and districts responsible to field three cars per shift have only nine constables per platoon, yet both platoons and districts require the same administrative infrastructure. The new proposal envisaged the City of Winnipeg divided into four police districts, North, Central, East and West. District boundaries would be defined after taking into account geographical boundaries, workload analysis, crime trend data and calls for service. Each district would form the base of operations for approximately 225-250 police members

By moving to a four-district model, each platoon would field practically the same number of units and assign the same number of members to each platoon. Workloads, span of control and supervisory responsibilities would be equitably distributed through the districts. Once the restructuring is completed, it would create an opportunity to reduce administration by 14 sergeants, two inspectors and two staff sergeants, with significant savings to the salary budget.

Another factor driving this proposal is that five of the six existing police stations are approximately 35 to 40 years old, require extensive renovations, do not support modern-day policing and are expensive to maintain.

Enabling Strategy

The proposal for the four-district model meets the Service’s initial challenge of increasing effectiveness, while at the same time making the Service more efficient. The business case put forward emphasized the salary savings that would accrue over a period of ten years to significantly offset costs of constructing the three new facilities.

We knew it would be necessary to clearly articulate both the organizational and financial benefits to each of the various audiences, so the Service created a Communication strategy that focussed on the benefits of the four-district model. It was decided first to engage City Council with the Service’s vision of modern-day policing in the city. The Service held several city council information seminars, where presentations of the plan, its benefits and financial details were discussed.

This provided the Service with insight as to where specific sensitivities lay within the political framework, so the communication strategy could be adjusted as the process moved forward. The fact that we had engaged an objective outside consultant for an assessment of the plan proved to be extremely beneficial at this stage, and ensured we received support in principle from city councillors.

Next, Police Services partnered with the Planning, Property and Development Department of the city to access its expertise, advice and assistance in developing a business proposal. The proposal submitted to the Corporate Secretariat of the City of Winnipeg was similar in structure to reports submitted on previously approved capital projects.

The proposal provided for three possible options on which City Council could vote:

  1. The first option proposed to maintain the status quo on police organization and simply improve the existing five police facilities in order to comply with current building codes. The cost associated with this proposal was approximately $2,331,700 and provided no organizational benefits.
  2. Option two proposed to upgrade existing facilities as close as possible to present day policing requirements under the current six district configuration. Once again there would be no organizational benefits and no reduction in administration would be realized. The cost of this option was approximately $11,005,600 and due to physical restraints would only include code compliance upgrades at one of the stations.
  3. Option three was the proposal for the four-district model that would see the closure of five existing police stations and the construction of three new modern police facilities. With this proposal the Police Service would see the organizational benefits outlined earlier, an opportunity to reduce administrative infrastructure and a considerable increase in the life span of police facilities. The cost for this option was $16,200,000, which would be significantly offset by salary savings and was the only option that provided the City of Winnipeg with a positive net present value in year 10 of $,2,483,000. This would be achieved from the WPS salary and benefit savings and the estimated economic life of the proposed newly constructed facilities at the end of the ten years under study.

The business case was submitted to the Corporate Secretariat and the Service subsequently received a report from Corporate Finance endorsing option three as the preferred option.

The Service was then prepared to take the proposal to City Council for a vote; however, an election was looming and it was decided to hold off until after the election was held. The Service used this time to create a communication package for the public and new city councillors. Once the election was complete, the Service brought the proposal back into view by holding another information session for the new City Council. As this proposal culminated under the guidance of a steering committee, represented by those persons needed to prioritize this initiative with our new City Council, we were successful in getting this proposal back on the political agenda,

In order to allay the concerns of some city councillors, the Service held 11 public information sessions throughout the city over a two-month period. These sessions were open to everyone and were used as a forum to discuss the intricacies of the plan. The Service was able to address the public’s concerns that fewer police stations meant diminished service, as it was demonstrated that this proposal would actually enhance police service.

The motion to proceed with the plan and provide the necessary funds was passed by City Council on July 2003. The Winnipeg Police Service will begin restructuring the Service in 2004, which will coincide with the start of construction.