June 3, 2020
Chief Danny Smyth
Winnipeg Police Service
P.O. Box 1680
Winnipeg, MB R3C 2Z7
Dear Chief Smyth,
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to share our concerns regarding an apparent Winnipeg Police Service training exercise.
It is our understanding that, on May 25, 2020, the Winnipeg Police Service was participating in a training session on Wellington Street, in downtown Winnipeg. The training included firearms scenario training which could be easily heard in the surrounding neighbourhood.
We have been contacted by Gabriela Aguero, a local resident who was understandably panicked by the sound of yelling and dozens of gunshots by her house. Ms. Aguero grew up in Argentina during the military junta and did research in Colombia during the civil war. She suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and found the incident highly traumatizing.
There was no notice provided to local residents or passersby that the event was a training exercise, leaving it to individuals to guess whether the slew of gunshots presented any immediate risk to themselves or their families. Ms. Aguero was outside in her yard when the she heard the sound of multiple gunshots close by; she had a panic attack and immediately ran inside her house. It wasn’t until her son went to a parking lot to get a better view of the opposite side of the river that he realized it was a police training exercise.
The trauma imposed upon this family was entirely avoidable and immediate steps must be taken to ensure this does not happen in the future.
It is particularly important to sensitively and appropriately engage with local residents at this time. As I am sure you are aware, relationships between police and local communities are currently under considerable strain. Three individuals were shot and killed by police in Winnipeg in the span of ten days in April.
Ensuring continued trust and transparency with the broader community must be a priority.
To that end, we request that you immediately establish a policy to ensure what happened last week does not repeat itself. Potential impact on the surrounding community must be taken into account when selecting police training locations. Densely populated urban areas should not be used for outdoor firearms scenarios. And regardless of the location, appropriate notice, communication and supports must be provided to potentially impacted residents and passersby where noisy or visible police training scenarios take place.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your prompt response.
Director, Criminal Justice Program
About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.
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