Hamiltonians speak out in favour of police budget increase

Not everyone is outraged by the notion of a 4.75-per cent increase to the Hamilton Police Services budget, and some of them made it known Thursday night.

Meeting is the first in a series of 3 town halls

Chief Glenn De Caire explains how collective bargaining is done at a public meeting about the Hamilton Police Service budget on Thursday night. The meeting drew about 40 people, including officers, police services board members and the media. There are two more public meetings scheduled. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Not everyone is outraged by the notion of a 4.75-per cent increase to the Hamilton Police Services budget, and some of them made it known Thursday night.

About 40 people gathered at a public meeting to hear Chief Glenn De Caire explain why his service wants a $6.4-million increase in this year's budget. While the proposed budget increase has drawn the ire of some Hamiltonians, a couple of them told De Caire they were in favour.

Coun. Terry Whitehead, an opponent of a 4.75-per cent budget increase, listens to comments from residents. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"I'm in favour of good policing," said Hans-Peter Boergers of Beach Boulevard after taking the floor. "I'm in favour of being rational about it and realizing you can only do with less for so long."

Areas such as Binbrook continue to grow, yet we expect Hamilton Police Service to do the same work with the same officer complement, he said. A portion of development charges should be earmarked for emergency services such as policing to serve those areas.

"As the population increases, we need more police officers to deal with it. That's just a fact," he said. "We need those extra bodies."

The budget has been controversial since November, when De Caire offered a draft budget with a $7.1-million increase, or 5.25 per cent over last year. The police services board told him to revise it, and he came back with a 4.75-per cent increase.

Board members told him to return this month with an even deeper cut.

The budget recommends hiring 20 more officers and one civilian staff member. A lower number would mean cutting 20 positions, De Caire said.

Resident Brian Tisdale told De Caire at Thursday's meeting at Mohawk College that he doesn't want that to happen.

Tisdale commented on De Caire's numbers showing Hamilton is below the provincial and national average in officers per 100,000 people.

"If I was you, I wouldn't want to be the guy saying 'Sorry, I don't have enough officers to cover you,'" said Tisdale, who sits on the chief's citizen advisory board.

"I think you're underfunded. I think your police service has been lean and mean for a number of years and you're paying for it now."

Not everyone agreed. Jim Sweetman of Dundas, who sat in an audience that included officers and police services board members, said the city can't afford a tax increase.

"We've reached the point in the city, I feel, where we just can't afford to continue to grow a lot of this stuff," he said.

He questioned whether Hamilton can afford De Caire's 60/40 model — 60 per cent reactive policing, 40 per cent proactive.

"The quality of the work you guys do is great," said Sweetman, a member of the Hamilton Civic League. "I just don't think we can afford the quantity you're bringing forth."

There are two more townhalls. They are:

Monday, Jan. 14: Bennetto Community Centre, 450 Hughson St. N.

Tuesday, Jan. 15: Stoney Creek Municipal Offices, Council Chambers, 77 Highway 8.

All sessions are 7 to 8:30 p.m. No registration is required.