Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire is dismissing as “simplistic” and “myopic” a call to reallocate some of the 40 officers on a special ACTION crime-fighting team to reduce the need for 20 new recruits in his controversial 2013 budget.
A letter from Hamilton Police Association president Mike Thomas suggested the move as a compromise to address the need for more front-line officers and meet city council’s call to restrain spending
It cites a survey of sworn members that found 62.5 per cent disagreed that the ACTION strategy’s success in reducing crime in targeted areas justifies its resources, while 87.8 per cent felt the initiative has increased officer workloads elsewhere.
“We think that our approach is a ‘made in Hamilton solution,’” Thomas wrote in a letter to councillors.
“It recognizes two legitimate needs: the need to ensure a high level of public safety and security and the need to restrain expenditures during a period of financial difficulty…”
But De Caire said the letter is isolated on the 20 new recruits and “missed the complexities” of his $140.7-million budget, which represents a 3.71 per cent increase, or $5 million, over last year.
It also overlooks the success of the ACTION – Addressing Crime Trends In Our Neighbourhoods – strategy in sharply reducing crime in the downtown core since being launched in 2010, he told the police services board on Monday.
“In the totality of our budget, I would advise that it’s our position that the (association) response is quite simplistic, it’s myopic and clearly it’s very self-serving,” De Caire said, suggesting the association address its own demands in upcoming contract talks.
“I would expect the president now to take a leadership position, take a position of fiscal responsibility and to follow the other City of Hamilton unions and accept concessions and wage constraints.”
But Mountain Councillor Terry Whitehead said the letter is consistent with his concerns about a decision to boost the size of the ACTION team to 40 from 16 two years ago by taking officers from other duties.
The hiring of 20 recruits scheduled for September is needed “because we’ve got targets that we’re not meeting,” he said, criticizing the strategy for almost exclusively focusing on the downtown core.
“It’s left a problem in some of the other areas and that’s why we’re in the dilemma we’re in,” Whitehead said, adding he doesn’t dispute the need for the ACTION team, but just its size.
“Let’s be clear. It came at the expense of other areas in this city,” he said. “We talk about all the great things that these additional officers have done in regards to the ACTION, but we don’t talk about what was lost, quite frankly.”