Friday, May 7, 2010
Officers can carry gun in civilian clothing -- off duty
WINNIPEG Police Service officers have been given the right to wear civilian clothing as they carry guns while travelling to and from work because threats against them have been escalating, the head of the police union said.
The former policy required officers to wear their uniforms if they took their guns home. Many officers wear civilian clothes between their home and their job so, previously, they couldn't be armed until they got to work.
The change, which kicked in Thursday, requires officers carrying their gun to also wear their badge, carry handcuffs, and have a weapon such as a baton or pepper spray with them.
However, the head of the police union said more needed to be done to protect officers who are targets of violence when they are off-duty, including when they're walking to their cars after their shift.
Mike Sutherland, Winnipeg Police Association president, said officers were being threatened by people who spied on them or threatened them, especially around the Public Safety Building.
"We deal with people who have a tendency towards dangerous and violent behaviours and they're not always kindly disposed to police officers," he said.
Police officers have had themselves and their vehicles photographed, said sources.
"It's increased in intensity in terms of serious incidents."
"(They've) made threats, gotten into encounters. There have been scenarios where people have been surveilling our members, have been armed with weapons with the full intention of conducting some type of criminal act against them."
He said there's only one district station that has fenced-in parking for officers.
Officers took their concerns to their workplace safety and health committee.
Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen confirmed a policy change took place.
He said parking issues have been raised.
"There have been instances where officers have been either confronted or approached, or there's been vehicle damage and so forth," he said.
Recently, a downtown lot where many officers park their vehicles had a safety gate installed around it.
Officers at the East District station -- the newly constructed Dugald Road station -- also have fenced-in parking and video surveillance and pay a monthly fee for their spots.
Sutherland said he'd like to see similar secure parking for officers across the city, directly adjacent to police buildings.
The way I see it, the more guns on the street, the more possibility for potential crime. But, it could also be helpful in protecting off duty officers from criminals who may seek retribution. They would also be adequately prepared for any possible encounter -- off duty as well. But again, in the long run, this could be a mistake, as more guns are on the streets. If they leave their cars unattended, one could break in and steal their guns and cause more harm.