The video of Inez being cut off and removed from the meeting can be viewed on YouTube (with captions) here or Twitter here.

Good morning members of the Winnipeg Police Board.

My name is Inez and I am a member of Winnipeg Police Cause Harm, a volunteer group committed to defunding the Winnipeg Police Service and reallocating resources to life-sustaining services.

I’m here today to talk about the Winnipeg Police’s bloated budget, which is set to see a $31 million mill rate increase in the multi-year operating budget between 2023 and 2027. By 2027, the City intends to spend $312 million on operating costs alone for a police service that kills and harms with impunity. 

This year, the decrease in the city’s contribution to the police can be attributed entirely to the decrease in pension benefits. That means, that despite its terrible track record, the city and this board have not chosen to fund the Winnipeg police any less than they have in the past. In fact, they’ve actually chosen to reward the police with an additional $15 million in spending on salaries and benefits.

The $31 million is actually only just the beginning, when we consider that this doesn’t even include investments in the capital budget. This year, operating funding for police is equivalent to operating funding for public transit, recreation, parks/natural areas, libraries, urban forestry, arts and culture, insect control, and sidewalk snow/ice removal combined. We also know that capital projects that are undertaken in this budget cycle eventually start to show up in the operating budget when new staff are needed to account for the sprawl in police resources. In addition to this $31 million, the Winnipeg Police is also set to receive and addition $36 million in capital investments between now and 2029.

Since the last budget was approved, the Winnipeg Police Service has killed 9 people, and hurt, traumatized, and criminalized countless others.

Inez was cut off and removed from the meeting at this point, preventing her from presenting the remainder of this presentation.

Rather than meaningfully engage with what it means to fund a city service that makes people actively unsafe this board and the city continue to push for more of the same, knowing full well it will come at the cost of Black and Indigenous lives. 

The board and the city pretend to care about the violence of policing, by putting forward reforms that have been tried and have failed in countless other cities. Accountability reforms, body cameras, more police, and layered police, are all meaningless changes that will not prevent police violence nor change its impacts, but that will mean more money and surveillance technology for police. These reforms also serve to legitimize the police, by encouraging the public to believe that maybe this time, the reform will stick and we won’t have to do away with policing in it’s entirety. 

Funding in the capital budget totalling close to a million dollars for the Connected Officer Program is just one such example. The budget reads the following “Connect Officer Program is an innovative technology initiative that has been shown to improve efficiency and effectiveness for front-line law enforcement officers and improved service delivery for citizens.” How so? What does efficiency and effectiveness mean in this case? Faster criminalization?  Is this board aware that surveillance equipment has been consistently proven to have negative impacts on marginalized communities that already face disproportionate harms of policing and do not reduce the number of police brutality incidents?

Another example of a problem masquerading as a solution is the new Transit Safety team. A perfect example of layered policing, these teams are trained by the police and are meant mostly to provide the illusion that the city is trying something new. There are so many ways the city could spend to make transit safer. Free transit, for starters, which would make transit both more accessible and reduce the threat of criminalization while taking the bus. Heated bus shelters, or even, on time and reliable service, a mask mandate. All of these are concrete ways that people can be kept safe on transit without relying on police or a vaguely police-adjacent service that offers nothing new. 

While I recognize that a portion of the funding comes from the provincial government, this does not absolve this board of their complicity every time someone is harmed by the Winnipeg Police Service. The fact that the province funds policing is no coincidence, nor is it unrelated to the ways in which this city defunds life-affirming services that actually keep people safe. This board, effectively a PR team for the Winnipeg Police spreads disinformation about the police’s ability to respond to the very real safety concerns of folks in this city. The city liaises with and lobbies the provincial government to funnel more money into policing and carceral violence rather than to encourage them to raise income assistance rates, education funding, health care funding, or to help the city deliver other much needed services such as libraries, recreation, art, and transit. 

Over the course of the next week and a half, folks from the city will present to various boards and committees in an attempt to see changes to this budget to try and make their lives more livable in the coming years. People will speak to the important of funding the library, asking for Saturday and Wednesday hours in all libraries year round, increased funding for programming, collections, and technology, support for the Community Connections space at Millennium Library and safety hosts across the system, and increased staffing by 12 full-time-equivalents to support these changes. People will ask for funding to the arts to be reinstated, and for pool closures to be avoided. People will call for investments into housing, into harm reduction services, for safe consumption sites, for compassion clubs and so much more. 

The funding that the Winnipeg Police will hoard this year will directly contribute to the those demands going unmet. This funding will come at the expense of what people need to survive and to thrive, and will actively fuel the occurrences of citations that wps claims to address. A self-fufilling prophecy, the WPS will hoard and waste the resources that are needed to actually keep people living in winnipeg safe. While doing so, these same cops will be a source of danger and fear for so many in the city. 

Rather than continue this cycle, I ask that the board implement a hiring freeze in order to start working towards a smaller, and eventually non-existant police service. I also ask that this board cancel all capital investment projects into infrastructure and surveillance technology that will only broaden police reach and ability to cause harm in this city. The solutions to social problems cannot be found within this board, but the financial resources to address them can be.

Tags: budget