New Winnipeg police chief vows to tackle social causes of crime
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New police Chief Devon Clunis provided some insight into what Winnipeggers can expect from his tenure during Friday’s official swearing-in ceremony at city hall.
“Today I am declaring that we will make a difference in preventing crime and disorder in our city, I am declaring that Winnipeg will become a safer city for all citizens, we will do this, not I (alone),” said Clunis after taking the oath of office.
“As your chief I am committed to take the lead, but I need all of you to go with me.” Clunis said the force will take “a multi-faceted approach” to reducing crime, first by having more frontline officers responding to calls.
“But greater enforcement is not the only part of the solution,” he added. “In addition to enforcement, more emphasis must and will be placed on prevention of crime.”
This emphasis includes the “social causes” of crime, such as poverty, poor living conditions, alcohol and drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, a lack of parenting skills and obstacles to education, Clunis said.
“These aren’t traditional police issues, but we must become a catalyst to change in our city,” he said. “Police consistently deal with the consequences associated with these social challenges and we realize that we cannot arrest these issues away.”
Clunis said he’ll be providing more specifics to his plans in a couple of months, after consulting with key stakeholders.
In what was a positive, even at times humorous, ceremony, Clunis paid tribute to educators who had a great influence on his life, including his St. John’s high school basketball coach Bill Wedlake.
For his part, Wedlake said there was something special to Clunis even as a teenager.
“He’s one of those people, and maybe they’re somewhat rare, but the gratitude and the thanks that he lets you know and is so genuine,” said Wedlake, with tears of pride in his eyes.
Wedlake said he agrees with Clunis’ plan to bring together law enforcement and educators to work together at crime prevention.
“It’s a fabulous message,” he added. “It just illustrates that he is a consensus builder, he is going to consult, but bottom line is he challenged everybody, you gotta all do something, you just can’t sit back and say ‘the police take care of it.’”
Outgoing Chief Keith McCaskill said he’s given Clunis a lot of advice that he prefers to keep private.
However, the most important is one Clunis touched on during his speech: building ties with the numerous communities that make up Winnipeg.
“I’ve always been an advocate of that and Devon is an advocate of that,” said McCaskill, whose retirement plans include a trip south of the border for the winter.