De Caire insists police have ‘strong partnerships, very good programs’
By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire will request a meeting with Interval House representatives to discuss concerns about the handling of domestic violence calls.
The police services board voted unanimously on Monday to direct the chief to seek a meeting in response to a letter from the women’s shelter’s executive director, Clare Freeman, outlining concerns revealed by a 2010-12 community safety audit.
According to Freeman, the audit, based on interviews with more than 100 women, found victims of domestic violence reported negative experiences accessing police services and all of them said they would not use services again because of “poor response and attitude.”
Board member Nancy DiGregorio, who pushed for the meeting, said she was caught off guard by the letter.
“I was alarmed,” she said. “I’ve been on this board for eight years. I personally know the amount of work that the Hamilton Police Service does with all the women’s groups. That’s why I thought it important for us to really get some either clarification or be informed of exactly what the issues and concerns are.”
The move to direct the chief to meet with Interval House came after a presentation to the board outlining the service’s work in domestic violence since 2010, listing conference presentations, training and a community advisory team, among other measures.
The presenters said police have been unsuccessful in their efforts to get a copy of the audit.
Board member Walt Juchniewicz urged the board to take Freeman’s letter seriously.
“I’ve never met Clare Freeman,” he said. “It would take a brave person to sign a letter like this. I just hope that we can actually deal with this with the care and compassion that I saw in this letter, that we can actually, respectfully, respond to it in the same way.”
De Caire afterwards declined to discuss Freeman’s letter, but insisted the service has provided a “comprehensive” approach to the cause over the last five years.
“We have very strong partnerships, we have very good programs, provincially-recognized best practices, award-winning programs and we are going to continue to focus on delivering service to protect women in our community,” he said.
“We need to make sure that the board of Interval House is well-informed, well aware of exactly what is taking place. And then we’ll engage in that dialogue to see what needs to be done in either the relationship or the service that we provide.”
Freeman, in her letter, also expressed dismay over the board’s decision to allow De Caire to rescind the resignation he submitted last September, a process she said allowed “affluent citizens” to use “their privilege as a political lobby.”
The board didn’t address that issue during Monday’s meeting.
Freeman told Hamilton Community News last month she found the decision unfair and undemocratic because it didn’t allow input from others who work with police and have concerns about the chief’s performance.
“I certainly wouldn’t support that he is the most community-minded and works with community agencies really well,” she said at the time. “I think when you look at the fact that domestic violence is practically the No. 1 call for service, it would be our organization’s perspective that under this chief, we’ve actually regressed.”
Clarification appended July 24: In a subsequent interview, Hamilton police spokesperson Catherine Martin said police have made four requests for a copy of the 2010-12 community safety audit, but have yet to receive the document.