Winnipeg police pull out of Project Devote, task force for missing and murdered exploited people

Winnipeg police are pulling out of the province’s police task force for missing and murdered exploited persons, in a move the service says will streamline and strengthen the investigations.

Police announced Friday the service will no longer have dedicated investigators assigned to Project Devote, after some officers were previously reassigned to the general homicide unit in November.

The project was a partnership between Winnipeg police and the RCMP, focused on resolving cold cases related to exploited people, including missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The new approach to these investigations will allow greater flexibility, Winnipeg police said.

“The new model will see a co-ordination of resources from the homicide unit, the counter-exploitation unit, the missing persons unit and the internet child exploitation unit,” police said in a news release Friday.

“Each of these units is directly supervised by experienced sergeants with a mandate to readily co-ordinate and rapidly transition investigations involving the exploitation of Indigenous women and girls, including missing persons investigations and homicide investigations.”

Police have added a family liaison position to help officers work with families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the release says.

“As a police service, we have to focus our efforts on working with the Indigenous community to ensure vulnerable Indigenous women and girls are not exploited in the first place,” Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said in the release.

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