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Secrecy hurts credibility of police and council

The Hamilton police services board may have followed the guidelines as set out under the Police Services Act, but what its members and Police Chief Glenn De Caire have done this week reveals the utter contempt they have for the people of this city.

The board voted 4–3 to reverse a previous decision to accept De Caire’s resignation after he announced that he would retire once his five-year contract expired on Dec. 31, 2014. Not only did they reverse their decision, they added two years to his contract, with an option for three additional years.

The entire escapade would be amusing, if the implications were not so destructive.

For whatever reason, De Caire had a change of heart and decided to remain Hamilton’s top cop. Why? De Caire has steadfastly refused to adequately explain why he wanted to resign in the first place or his subsequent flip-flop.

And the police services board, never one to shake things up, was amendable to De Caire staying. Board chair Lloyd Ferguson was also feeling pangs of guilt for accepting the chief’s resignation last year.

He confirmed during a short news conference that he reversed his vote during a 90-minute in camera meeting.

What is so egregious about the entire spectacle is how much the board and police chief are thumbing their noses at the public. Both the chief and Ferguson tried unsuccessfully to paper over the secret discussions with what can only be labeled Machiavellian maneuverings, lamely arguing that “thousands” of regularly folk wanted De Caire to stay, and with the Pan Am Games only a year away, the city needed an “experienced senior commander to get through that period.”

The police board, in flagrant disregard of any type of openness, continued its habit of secrecy. Citing the Police Services Act, Ferguson said he couldn’t reveal what transpired behind closed doors. Yet to at least give the appearance of transparency and accountability, the board needed to hold their discussions in public.

The Act, which governs the actions of the board, is vague on what can and can’t be discussed in private. That vagueness has become a blanket that board members have historically wrapped themselves around in an effort to protect themselves from inevitable criticism.

And De Caire himself, who has sworn to uphold the ideals of integrity and confidence, has emerged from this fiasco with his creditability in the community tarnished. How can the public take him seriously anymore?

You would have thought these 1950s-style back room dealings had ended. But Hamilton has proved that secrecy is the norm. The Hamilton police services board has besmirched the city’s reputation, and left a black mark on its representative government that will take years to overcome.

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