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'Putting people at a safety risk': Police union files grievance over Winnipeg's transit safety officers


The union representing Winnipeg police officers is taking issue with a new city program to bring safety officers onto Transit buses, saying it violates a collective agreement and could actually pose a safety risk.

Cory Wiles, the president of the Winnipeg Police Association, confirmed the union filed a grievance with the city on Monday over the program.

"The city we believe is putting people at a safety risk, both the transit operators as well as people that are travelling on the bus, and these safety officers," Wiles told CTV News.

Training has already begun for 21 community safety officers and two supervisors who are set to begin riding on buses sometime in February. These staff are being trained in conflict resolution and nonviolent crisis intervention, but – as sworn peace officers – will have the authority to detain people and enforce laws.

READ MORE: Safety officers another step closer to riding Winnipeg Transit buses

That's raising red flags for the police union, who believes the program is violating its collective agreement. Wiles said the union believes the work of safety officers should be left to the police.

"Having the city undermine that bargaining work and having employees who aren't police officers that are doing things like arresting and detaining and dealing with violent criminals is a precedent that we couldn't allow," he said.

"Our officers are fully trained, and we believe that their new set of officers would be having less of the tools and training that's required."

However, Mayor Scott Gillingham – who has been promising to put peace officers on city buses since early last year – said the city is not trying to replace police officers.

"We intentionally set this group of individuals, these community safety officers up to be something other than police. We don't intend them to be sworn police officers," he said.

Gillingham said the city has modelled its program after similar transit safety officer programs in other cities like Calgary and Vancouver.

He said Winnipeg's program is possible thanks to new provincial legislation related to peace officers and community safety officers – which he said is different from sworn police officers.

He said there is ongoing dialogue with the union, though the city does intend to move forward with the program for now. Top Stories

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