Chief Glenn De Caire leaving Hamilton Police for McMaster University

Chief Glenn De Caire will be McMaster University's new director of security and parking. Police board members "surprised" and "puzzled."

Resignation comes just weeks after the board backed him for a 2-year extension

Chief Glenn De Caire, right, resigns from the Hamilton Police service as Lloyd Ferguson, chair of the police services board, looks on. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Glenn De Caire, chief of the Hamilton Police, is leaving the service to be director of security and parking at McMaster University.

In a move that surprised and puzzled members of the local police board, the 53-year-old chief announced Friday he was leaving as of Jan. 17, 2016. He starts at the university the next day.

And since his last day on the job will be Dec. 31, he's leaving with effectively two weeks notice. De Caire told board members less than two hours before a Friday afternoon press conference announcing the decision.

Just a month earlier, the board had voted to extend De Caire's contract by two years.

De Caire's tenure has been controversial.

McMaster has offered me an opportunity to contribute to their organization over a long term, and my opportunity here with the Hamilton Police Service has been limited by the contract term.- Chief Glenn De Caire

Under his watch, violent crime has decreased.

De Caire also launched the high-profile ACTION team, which patrols Hamilton's downtown and other areas on foot and bicycle, and launched some other innovative policing practices.

Some city politicians have credited the ACTION team as a factor in revitalizing the downtown. 

But De Caire has also been criticized for an autocratic management style. In October, a survey from the police union showed that 72.1 per cent of sworn officers didn't want his contract extended. He also faced controversy and criticism over carding, which De Caire introduced to Hamilton, along with his handling of some other race and diversity issues.

Legal positions

De Caire said those issues played no part in his decision.

"The positions I've taken on behalf of this service are sound positions. They are appropriate positions. They are legal positions for public safety."

I don't think anyone is not puzzled. Anyone who says they aren't must have a crystal ball.- Coun. Terry Whitehead

The move will likely mean a pay cut. De Caire earned $228,519.20 plus $18,901.68 in benefits in 2014 as Hamilton's police chief. His predecessor at McMaster, former police superintendent Terry Sullivan, earned $133,852.35 plus $8,560.11 in benefits.

Seeking stability

De Caire said the stability of the new job was a draw. When he applied to McMaster, he said, he had "no commitment from the board" so he "sought opportunity elsewhere."

He did have a commitment when he accepted the job on Saturday. But "McMaster has offered me an opportunity to contribute to their organization over a long term, and my opportunity here with the Hamilton Police Service has been limited by the contract term," he said.

And "people retire in their 36th year of policing." 

When asked why he couldn't give the board more notice, he said the timing of start date at his new job was "completely out of my hands."

"The board is required by law to be notified first," he said. "And they were."

'How is it that nobody knew he was a candidate?- Coun. Matthew Green

The resignation poses many questions that will probably never be answered, said Matthew Green, a Ward 3 city councillor who has been critical of De Caire over the issue of racial bias in street checks, otherwise known as carding.

The McMaster job was posted five months ago, Green said. "How is it that nobody knew he was a candidate?"

With the extension, he said, "(De Caire) got everything he wanted. It doesn't get much more stable than that." 

Terry Whitehead is a Ward 8 councillor who sits on the police services board. He and De Caire have had issues before, including a heated exchange that saw Whitehead suspended from the board while the Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigated the argument.

Whitehead can't speak on behalf of the board. But "personally, it comes as a real surprise, especially in light of the fact that he expressed his desire to stay on with the board. We believed and trusted in his sincerity only to find out a couple of weeks later that he's going somewhere else."

"I don't think anyone is not puzzled. Anyone who says they aren't must have a crystal ball."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger issued a statement acknowledging De Caire's achievements in fighting crime, as well as his "numerous new and innovative programs." But he also mentioned being taken off guard.

"It is with great surprise that I recognize Chief De Caire upon his retirement announcement," he said.

What about a new chief?

The board was surprised, said chair Lloyd Ferguson. But he said he understands.

"You don't want a length of time for there to be chatter over the water cooler," he said. "It's just got to go bang-bang when you decide to retire." It has to be "a quick process is best because otherwise you just get distracted."

De Caire's last day will be Dec. 31 because he's taking two weeks of vacation, Ferguson said. Before he leaves, he'll appoint an acting chief of police. The board expects to hire a new one in the spring.

This isn't the first time De Caire has issued a statement announcing his retirement. He initially did so in fall 2013. Then in June, after a $20,000 search for a new chief, he withdrew his retirement and the board renewed his contract until 2018.

For that reason and others, De Caire has been a somewhat controversial chief over his time at Hamilton Police Services, which started in 2009.

At McMaster, De Caire will be responsible for leading the campus security team and managing the university's parking services, says the McMaster Daily News.

"We are impressed by Glenn's extensive background and his expressed approach to leading the security and parking services," said Mohamed Attalla, assistant vice-president facility services, in the Daily News article. 


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