Chief Glenn De Caire will not seek an extension of his contract as the head of Hamilton's police service.

De Caire said in a statement on the Hamilton Police Service website Tuesday that he will retire from the service when his contract ends on Dec. 31, 2014.

"I am extremely proud of our service and the policing excellence that has been delivered to the citizens of Hamilton by our members," he said in the statement.

"I am honoured to serve in Hamilton and have worked hard every day to represent the members, the community and the board to the best of my abilities."

The decision marks the end of a sometimes controversial run as head of Hamilton's police service. While many cite positive changes under De Caire's time. But some also speak of his uncompromising nature and strict disciplinary measures that saw him butt heads with the association representing some 1,200 Hamilton police officers and staff. 

It also comes at the end of a fractured year with city hall, where councillors battled with him over budget issues.

De Caire has been chief since November 2009, arriving from Toronto, where he served as a staff superintendent. He recently had a performance review with the Hamilton police services board. Mayor Bob Bratina, who chairs the board, said he was surprised when De Caire handed him the letter Tuesday.

'He has done a lot of positive things in the service, but his leadership hasn't come without controversy' —Coun. Terry Whitehead

"I'm upset about it because he's one of the finest men I've known and his record as a chief speaks for itself," Bratina said.

Bratina wouldn't comment on whether he believed the performance review was linked to De Caire's decision to retire. He can't speak for the chief's thought process, he said, and cited the review as an "in-camera process."

'Outstanding police chief'

"My personal opinion as a citizen of Hamilton and mayor of the City of Hamilton was that he was an outstanding police chief," Bratina said.

Council faced off with De Caire earlier this year over a proposed budget increase, which his administration slashed three times after it was rejected by council. Two months later, council passed a resolution asking the province for more governance over its police service.

Then Coun. Terry Whitehead was placed on forced leave from the police services board for undisclosed reasons, which Whitehead believes stem in part from a confrontation between him and De Caire.


Chief Glenn De Caire explains the budget during a police services board meeting earlier this year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

De Caire's announcement is surprising, Whitehead said Tuesday.

"It draws two conclusions for me," he said. "One is that it was always (De Caire's) intent to do (five) years and retire, or he may have had a performance review recently that he wasn't impressed with."

Leadership 'not without controversy'

De Caire was hired in part because the service needed a leader with a firm hand, said Whitehead, who was part of the board that hired the chief.

"Without question, Chief De Caire fit that bill and brought that to the service," he said. "But some individuals may think it was a more autocratic style, one that was not open to criticism, even though he talked that he was OK with criticism."

When De Caire took over the job, it had a steep learning curve, Whitehead said. And the chief oversaw many positive achievements.

But "it has been a storm for him with regards to certain members of the board," he said. "There's no question that he was never one of those open and transparent type leaders, which I think was his Achilles heel.

"He has done a lot of positive things in the service, but his leadership hasn't come without controversy."

'Style maybe caused some conflict'

News of De Caire's retirement also surprised Mike Thomas, president of the Hamilton Police Association.

"I knew they were going to be doing a performance review and that the contract extension was going to be part of it," Thomas said. "I'm not sure how long of an extension they were looking for, but I thought he would pursue that."

De Caire made some positive changes, Thomas said. Among them is the social navigator program, which connects people with mental health issues on Hamilton's streets with other social service agencies. It has become a model for other police services, he said.

But Thomas admits he didn't always see eye to eye with De Caire, whose "style maybe caused some conflict," he said.

De Caire's time as chief has also brought increased penalties against officers, who didn't always feel De Caire's adminstration was open to constructive criticism, he said.

"Every process became more formalized, and I think that sometimes debriefs can be just as effective as more formal processes."

'It's never been personal'

Coun. Sam Merulla introduced the motion earlier this year for city council to take greater control of the police service. But the councillor said Tuesday that he harbours no ill will toward the chief.

"It was never personal between the chief and I," Merulla said. "It's never been personal."

"I enjoyed working with him and I think he believes in his heart of hearts in all the decisions he's made, and for that, I respect him."

De Caire is a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He also holds a degree from York University and certificates in criminal justice education from the University of Virginia and in human resource management from York.

He was selected by the Hamilton police services board as the city's 34th chief on Nov. 20, 2009. He was a 29-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service, where he served as commander for the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy unit. For the four years prior to his appointment in Hamilton, De Caire was a staff superintendent. 

Still work to do

Bratina said he's not ready to think about the next chief quite yet. The board meets again on Sept. 16. Its members will discuss the statement and next steps then, he said.

"Personally, (De Caire leaving) will be a loss for me because of his outstanding work and leadership and dedication to duty," he said.

There is still lots of work to do in 2013 and 2014, De Caire said on the website.

"We, as the proud police service that we are, remain committed to the relentless pursuit of offenders, enhancement of community safety and the protection of victims of crime," he said.

In his statement, the chief cited a number of accomplishments during his tenure he was proud of:

  • Enforcement levels over 50 per cent from 2008.
  • Arrests have increased from a yearly average of 7,200 to the 2012 level of 8,600.
  • 2009-2013 saw 4 of 5 budgets under 4 per cent.
  • In October, the service will receive three International Awards for its Victim Services and Community Based Policing programs and strategies. 
  • The ACTION Strategy, Bail Compliance Unit and Social Navigator Program, as innovative strategies designed to assist the most vulnerable.
  • A decrease in the Violent Crime Severity decrease of 19 per cent in 2012, the largest in the country.

Related: Hamilton police chief credits economy, law enforcement for plunging crime rate

With files from Julia Chapman