By Richard Leitner, News Staff
Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire is going on the road to sell his controversial proposed 2013 budget to the public.
The first of three “community town halls” on the $142-million budget will take place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 10 at Mohawk College’s Fennell Avenue campus.
Sessions will follow at Bennetto Community Centre, 450 Hughson St. N, on Jan. 14 and the Stoney Creek Municipal Services Centre, 77 Highway 8, on Jan. 15. Start times are also at 7 p.m. and all sessions are scheduled to run an hour.
The town halls come after the Hamilton police services board last month directed De Caire to seek further cuts to his proposed budget, which increases spending by $6.4 million, or 4.75 per cent.
The chief has already pared his requested increase from an initial $7.12 million, or 5.25 per cent, a cut achieved by spreading out the hiring of 20 new officers and a civilian support staff over two years.
De Caire insists the extra staffing is needed because of increased time demands on his existing 797 officers and population growth, primarily in Glanbrook.
He has said he will have to cut “20 functions” without the extra hires, a potential list that includes five school resource officers, four officers who work the night desk at the Mountain and east-end stations, nine crime managers and two members of a crisis outreach and support team.
In a news release announcing the town halls, De Caire cited a number of statistics to support his case for the 4.75-per-cent increase, including that the average Hamilton police officer handles 35 criminal incidents per year, compared to a provincial average of 30.
He also trumpeted the 8,500 arrests made last year, which were 1,000 more than three years ago.
“The Hamilton Police Service is committed to public safety and providing excellence in policing in the most cost effective manner,” the chief said. “We are producing more per officer, which is value for money invested.”
Those stats have yet to fully persuade the police services board, which has asked De Caire “to determine whether any further savings can be found” and present his findings at their Jan. 21 meeting.
The three council members on the board last month pushed for the chief to cut the budget increase to between three and 3.5 per cent, but were overruled by the four citizen appointees, who simply favoured seeking “further savings.”
De Caire called a three-per-cent limit on his budget increase “impossible” because the police collective agreement alone requires a 3.62 per cent hike in spending.
He also warned he’ll consider taking the budget to arbitration before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission if the board or council try to force him to make bigger cuts.
But Mountain Councillor Terry Whitehead, who sits on the police board, said the 4.75 per cent increase doesn’t take into account taxpayers’ ability to pay or that many people have had to live with wage freezes in recent years.
He’s urging the chief to draft a “maintenance budget” that will continue existing service levels, one he believes should limit the increase to about 3.6 per cent.
The budget can be view online at www.hamiltonpolice.on.ca.