Call for Action: Defund the Winnipeg Police Service

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This petition has been created by concerned citizens to express outrage and opposition to the funding of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Though the comments made by Mayor Brian Bowman in his press conference on June 3, 2020 would have you believe differently, Winnipeg is not immune from racist police brutality.  

In April of this year, Winnipeg Police shot and killed three Indigenous people in the span of 10 days:

  • On April 8, 2020, Eisha Hudson was shot and killed by the Police Officers of the Winnipeg Police Service. She was 16 years old;
  • On April 9th, 2020, Jason Collins was shot and killed by the Police Officers of the Winnipeg Police Service. He was 36 years old; and
  • On April 18, 2020, Stewart Kevin Andrews was shot and killed by Police Officers of the Winnipeg Police Service. He was 22 years old.

Since 2001, the Winnipeg Police Service has shot and killed 19 people, 12 of whom were Indigenous and 2 of whom were Black. For reference, Indigenous people represent only 12.5% of the population in Winnipeg while Black people represent just 3.9% of the population. Clearly, these death rates don’t equate with their proportion of Winnipeg’s population. In 15 of those cases, the Independent Investigations Unit of Manitoba concluded the officer's actions were justified, leading to no charges. The remaining four are still under investigation. We question the efficacy of a process that always results in no blame or accountability, particularly given the lack of cooperation by officers with this process, as well as other criticisms of the IIU, which have been well documented by the Winnipeg Free Press.

Winnipeg Police are the among the deadliest in Canada, if not the deadliest

Though exhaustive information is hard to find as Statistics Canada only tracks fatal police shootings if an officer is criminally charged, according to this list (which does not appear to be complete and does not include other known deaths in police custody), two thirds of all Canadian police killings (four out of six) in 2020 thus far have happened right here in Winnipeg. At least three quarters of those killings involved Indigenous victims (the identity of the person killed by the Winnipeg Police Service on March 10, 2020 is not public knowledge).

In 2019, more than half of police killings in Canada (four out of seven) happened in Winnipeg. Of those four, three were Indigenous and one was Black. 

Winnipeg spends far more than other Canadian cities on police

The operating budget of the Winnipeg Police Service is $304,100,000 (source: Budget 2020). This makes up 26.6% of the annual budget for the City of Winnipeg (up from 2000, when the Winnipeg budget allocated 16.9% for the WPS). Per the 2020 budget, the WPS received a 2% growth in the operating budget, while the City simultaneously made cuts to the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Main Street Project, transit services and the Millennium Library’s hours.  

This is particularly egregious when compared to percent of the budget allocated to police in other cities.  

  • Montreal, 2020: 11%
  • Toronto, 2020: 17% to Emergency Services, which includes but is not entirely for the police
  • Edmonton, 2019: 14.5%

We are calling for action

We ask that elected officials pledge to do the following:

  1. To never again vote to increase the Winnipeg Police Service budget;
  2. To propose and implement a WPS budget cut of, at the absolute minimum, $73 million -  in accordance with Mayor Brian Bowman’s lesser estimate for Winnipeg’s operating budget shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  3. To prioritize the expansion of community-led health and safety initiatives over future financial investment into the Winnipeg Police Service.

In the face of cyclical police violence happening throughout North America right now, there is no better time to commit ourselves to change. We have seen that investing in body cameras, civilian reviews or de-escalation and implicit bias training doesn’t work. What we need in Winnipeg is leadership that can initiate a reduction in the immense police violence that targets our most marginalized people, toward the eventual abolition of police and prisons. In order to do this, we call on you and the City Council to reduce funding in these ways:

  1. Withhold pensions and do not rehire cops involved in excessive force cases;
  2. Require individual officers to be liable for misconduct settlements;
  3. Reduce the police force, and demilitarize (for e.g., stop buying military-style tactical gear, sell the tank and helicopter);
  4. Stop sending armed/uniformed cops on mental health-related calls.

An increased police presence does not keep us safe, rather it directly threatens the lives of our most vulnerable communities (BIPOC, the LGBTQ2S+ community, unhoused people, street-based sex workers, people with disabilities, people experiencing poverty, people who use drugs, etc.). Instead of investing in policing, our city must prioritize alternatives like increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, mutual aid, social workers, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other vital community-based support systems.  Think of all we could do with an extra $75 million in the civic budget (or $300 million per year if the police were entirely defunded) - that’s a world that defunding the police makes possible. Fund organizations and programs that are already doing this work; such as, Bear Clan Patrol, Mama Bear Clan, North End Women’s Center, Main Street Project, Macdonald Crisis Services, Klinic Community Health, Crisis Stabilization Unit,  Blackspace Winnipeg, North Point Douglas Aboriginal Women’s Centre, Rainbow Resource Centre, Nine Circles Community Health Centre, Spence Neighbourhood Association, and Sunshine House.  

Per the City of Winnipeg’s Code of Conduct for Members of Council, you represent us, your constituents. Failing to take action against police brutality and the WPS’ racist practices is a failure to represent a concerned community. If you are unable to offer immediate, meaningful action, then we ask that you resign and make way for leadership that is able to do so.