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Winnipeg police chief defends force after 3 officers arrested for drunk driving

Winnipeg police chief defends force after 3 officers arrested for drunk driving
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In a rare move, Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth called a news conference to discuss the problem of drinking and driving, after three of his officers were arrested for impaired driving in the span of just seven weeks.

One off-duty officer, Const. Justin Holz, was arrested in October and charged with impaired driving causing death, in the hit-and-run death of Cody Severight, 23.

Another off-duty officer was pulled over by RCMP on Nov. 20. He is expected to face impaired driving charges. A third officer was arrested by Winnipeg police on Nov. 26 after refusing a breathalyzer. He too is expected to be charged with impaired driving.

The names of the two officers involved in the most recent arrests have not been released because they have yet to be formally charged. Both face January court dates and have been placed on administrative leave.

These officers will be held accountable for their conduct in both criminal proceedings and in regulatory proceedings, Smyth told reporters on Wednesday.

The police chief told reporters he is taken aback that two more members of the police service have been arrested since Severights death.

Our organization is still reeling from that incident, he said, adding his force typically deals with only one or two such incidents per year.

I expect better conduct from our officers about their decisions after theyre out socializing, he said.

The chief dismissed suggestions there is a culture of binge drinking among officers, noting that only a minority of the 1,400 or so police officers in Winnipeg have ever engaged in impaired driving.

These are problems we are dealing with and that our whole society deals with every day, Smyth said.

He added that health and mental health resources are always provided to officers who show signs of an alcohol problem, adding that awareness campaigns and efforts to curb impaired driving need to be ongoing.

As we enter into this festive season, I hope my message raises greater awareness of drinking and driving specifically for members of the police service, but also the community at large.
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