Whitehead at odds with Mayor Bratina over Hamilton police budget

"I'm so far away from the mayor's position on this," says the Ward 8 councillor.
Chief Glenn De Caire from Hamilton Police Service explains the new proposed budget, which is an increase of 4.75 per cent over last year. That proposal has Coun. Terry Whitehead at odds with Mayor Bob Bratina. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The proposed 2013 Hamilton police budget has the mayor and a councilor butting heads.

Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead released a statement Friday evening that says the budget needs to come in under Police Chief Glenn De Caire's most recent proposal of a 4.75 per cent increase.

Whitehead told CBC Hamilton he issued the statement in direct response to Mayor Bob Bratina's comments about the budget while being interviewed on CHML Friday afternoon.

"I'm so far away from the mayor's position on this," he said.

Whitehead says he believes the mayor is OK with the proposed 4.75 per cent increase, something he doesn't think the city can afford.

Bratina did not directly advocate the proposed 4.75 per cent increase while on CHML as Whitehead suggested.

"I'm not trying to sell a number to council," Bratina told CHML's Bill Kelly.

"We have to put the policing out there that's going to do the job required. People have to feel safe in their city and if they don't we have to provide more resources," he said.

The mayor said there are many portions of the city's budget that run over four per cent, so that kind of number is sensible when "adequate and effective policing" is concerned.

You can listen to Bratina's full interview here.

Trying to find a middle ground

The initial budget proposal for the Hamilton Police Service was an increase of 5.25 per cent. De Caire presented a revised budget at a meeting on Dec. 17 that lowered that request to a 4.75 per cent increase.

But some members of the police services board say they want De Caire to find more savings in the $142-million budget.

"We're close to the taxi strip, but we're not even ready for takeoff, from my perspective," said Coun. Bernie Morelli. "We need to find a way to get to 3 per cent — or in or around there — in a way that doesn't hurt this community."

'Constructive dialogue needs to take place, not fear mongering.'—Coun. Terry Whitehead

The first draft of the budget, presented in November, suggested an increase of $7.1 million over the year before. That would have brought the total police budget to $143 million from $135,641,540 in 2011, an increase of about $30 per year for the average Hamilton household.

About 80 per cent of the increase is salaries. The newest version proposes savings by phasing in the hiring of 20 new officers and one new civilian staff member and decreasing money for human resources programming, said Ted Mason, chief accountant with the police service.

De Caire warned in November that cutting deeper than 5.25 per cent would mean the loss of 20 positions and restrict operations at two stations to business hours only.

At the Dec. 17 meeting, De Caire said that lowering the budget increase to 3 per cent would mean the loss of 39 existing positions — 20 officers and 19 staff members.

Not looking for layoffs: Whitehead

Whitehead says it is "certainly not" his position that the city starts laying off police.

"I am asking the chief to come in with a maintenance budget that will maintain the same services as the previous years at approximately 3.6 per cent," he said in a statement.

"Constructive dialogue needs to take place, not fear mongering. I am confident that this chief can deliver a reasonable budget that maintains a high level of safety and security in our community."

With files from Samantha Craggs