Hamil­ton po­lice board needs to be re­vamped

It ap­pears there has been in­creas­ing bud­gets just to build a large re­serve

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - SHEKAR CHANDRASHEKAR Shekar Chandrashekar is for­mer civic em­ployee and con­cerned pri­vate cit­i­zen

I read with in­ter­est the re­cent ar­ti­cle con­cern­ing the com­plaint lodged by Mr. Juch­niewicz, who is a Hamil­ton Po­lice Ser­vices (HPS) board mem­ber, against the re­sponse by the HPS board, the vice-chair­per­son, Ms. Levy, and the board chair­per­son, Mr. Fer­gu­son; in par­tic­u­lar to Mr. Juch­niewicz’s con­cerns about com­ments made by Ms. Levy and about the gen­eral in cam­era con­tent of the HPS Board meet­ings.

The topic of in­fight­ing within the Hamil­ton Po­lice Ser­vices Board re­gard­ing “al­le­ga­tions of se­crecy, racism, and code of con­duct vi­o­la­tions” was dis­cussed by the Spec­ta­tor’s An­drew Dreschel in his re­cent ar­ti­cle and was re­ported by CBC news on­line con­cern­ing ob­jec­tions to hid­den agen­das within the board raised in Mr. Juch­niewicz’s let­ter.

My own dis­pute with Mr. Fer­gu­son oc­curred at the May HPS board meet­ing. The re­sults of the KPMG au­dit had been pre­sented and the chair asked whether the is­sues raised by me in two Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor ar­ti­cles were a ba­sis for con­cern. The au­di­tor said they were not. Since I was present at that meet­ing, I re­quested an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond pub­licly. My re­quest to re­spond was de­nied, thereby un­der­min­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity of my pub­lic con­cerns re­gard­ing po­lice ser­vices fi­nan­cial af­fairs. In my opin­ion this was a vi­o­la­tion of the chair­man’s code of con­duct and un­der­mines the trans­parency of HPS and the demo­cratic process.

Mr. Fer­gu­son wrote an op-ed ar­ti­cle in the Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor on June 11, 2016, in an at­tempt to bol­ster pub­lic con­fi­dence in the HPS bud­get. In the ar­ti­cle, Mr. Fer­gu­son praised the 2015 bud­get be­cause it “was the low­est per­cent­age in­crease in 16 years.” Mr. Fer­gu­son did not men­tion though that po­lice bud­gets in re­cent years have re­sulted in large sur­pluses, and there­fore, any in­crease, in my opin­ion, re­gard­less how small, is un­jus­ti­fied

Although Mr. Fer­gu­son has dis­missed the is­sues I have raised re­gard­ing po­lice fi­nances, I as­sure that the state­ments I made in those ar­ti­cles are ac­cu­rate and I con­tinue to find many ar­eas that re­quire closer ex­am­i­na­tion. One of those ar­eas is the costs in­curred by HPS in host­ing the Pan Am Games and the re­im­burse­ment of those costs by the prov­ince. The agree­ment was that the prov­ince would re­im­burse Po­lice Ser­vices to the ex­tent of the amount ex­pended; how­ever, the re­im­burse­ment claimed and re­ceived by HPS is con­sid­er­ably greater than the ex­pen­di­tures recorded in their ac­counts. The Pan Am claim was not au­dited by KPMG. I am en­cour­ag­ing the On­tario Au­di­tor Gen­eral to per­form a fol­lowup au­dit.

An­other is­sue I have raised, is the ac­count­ing for the large sur­plus that arose from re­serves ac­cu­mu­lated in the years 2013 to 2015. The re­serves were in­tended as a con­tin­gency to cover the cost of con­tract set­tle­ments that were un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion dur­ing that pe­riod. The con­tracts were set­tled in 2015, how­ever af­ter set­tling the con­tracts; a sur­plus in ex­cess of $3 mil­lion re­mained in the con­tin­gency and has re­mained in Po­lice Ser­vices cof­fers. Th­ese funds were raised by levy­ing tax on the res­i­dents of Hamil­ton, yet the HPS bud­get con­tin­ues to rise.

It is my opin­ion that the ex­cess funds re­ceived via the Pan Am game re­im­burse­ment and the con­tract con­tin­gency sur­plus were pre­planned to pro­vide fi­nanc­ing for a foren­sic build­ing for which po­lice ser­vices had failed to ob­tain pro­vin­cial and fed­eral fund­ing. I do not ques­tion the need for a foren­sic build­ing, but I do ques­tion the method of fi­nanc­ing it. As a law en­force­ment agency, they should go through proper ap­proval pro­cesses in­stead of what looks to be a pad­ding of their bud­get at the ex­pense of Hamil­ton tax­pay­ers.

An­other se­ri­ous con­cern is the pro­vi­sion in the re­tire­ment pack­age of for­mer chief Glen De Caire that per­mits him to re­tain his po­lice ser­vices com­puter and cell­phone. That does not com­ply with stan­dard prac­tice by busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions and cer­tainly not with other law en­force­ment agen­cies. I will be fil­ing an ap­peal on this is­sue.

It is ap­par­ent that the Hamil­ton Po­lice Ser­vices Board is dys­func­tional and is not per­form­ing the tasks with which it is en­trusted. There is in­ter­nal dis­cord and, in my view, a de­fi­ciency in lead­er­ship. It needs to be re­vamped. There is no rep­re­sen­ta­tion from vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties on the board or in se­nior po­lice ser­vices com­mand. Hamil­ton Po­lice Ser­vices has been op­er­at­ing in iso­la­tion with­out accountability and trans­parency. HPS con­tin­ues to re­ceive an­nual bud­get in­creases while ac­cu­mu­lat­ing large sur­pluses. It is my opin­ion that there should be greater in­volve­ment by City of Hamil­ton fi­nan­cial staff in the work­ings of po­lice fi­nances.

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