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News Room – Inside the Winnipeg Police Service


Our City United -
Working With Winnipeg's Diverse Communities

By Sgt. Ben Haegeman,
Community Engagement Section

There are moments in policing that create an emotionally charged community. In the past year we were provided with many examples. Some of the easiest to recall exist south of the border. I remember the Ferguson, Missouri riots and similar incidents across the United States. Locally, I point to examples such as the Tina Fontaine homicide, the march that followed the recovery of her body, and the provocative Maclean’s Magazine article that named Winnipeg as the country’s most racist city.

With these and other moments in mind, I was left to wonder if our Service was doing enough to prevent people in our city from feeling isolated or even wronged. Who are the community members we can partner with in the wake of a police shooting or in-custody death? Who may have the ability to lead their people through such difficult times in a peaceful manner?

The Service already has some excellent community partnerships. As just one example, the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) is part of a committee that has existed for years bringing together newcomer community members and providing them with an opportunity to have open lines of communication with the WPS.

More recently, the Service has struck a committee with community members and representatives from the Muslim community. This is an effort to engage these community members in trusting and long lasting relationships. It is a collaborative approach to relationship building and we recognize by working together we can have a more profound impact in our efforts find positive outlets for young people and reduce the possibility of young people becoming involved in crime. Certainly, there is a healthy list of Service involvement with various other community groups, most of which represent some form of social cause.

When I view the involvement of the WPS in community work, against the context of the examples such as Ferguson, I perceive an opportunity to become even more inclusive. Despite the level of current community engagement, there still remain many ethno-cultural communities who are not represented in any form of a committee. For these reasons, the Community Support Division has undertaken a re-newed effort to be as inclusive as possible in the work undertaken by the Service.

On June 27th 2015, our Service is hosting the 43 ethno-cultural organizations that make up the annual Folklorama festival. This event will bring together the individuals who are recognized as leaders within their specific communities. Each will receive a questionnaire in an effort to see how the various communities perceive their police service, and what the Service can do to improve perceptions.

Additionally, this opportunity provides the WPS with recognized community leaders that may be willing to work with the Service not only in the best of times, but in the worst of times as well. In those difficult moments, the community based leadership may be able to help maintain public safety when the community becomes emotionally charged.

The group will expand to become as inclusive as possible and may expand beyond its Folklorama roots. It is a real step for the Service to engage all aspects of this city’s population and the WPS will soon be better positioned to engage the community than ever before.