Po­lice board look­ing at civil­ian CEO

City could hire some­one with more fi­nan­cial back­ground than uni­formed of­fi­cer

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Monday, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­pec.com 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

The Hamil­ton po­lice board is ex­plor­ing the idea of hir­ing a civil­ian ex­ec­u­tive in­stead of a sworn of­fi­cer to fill the va­cant deputy chief po­si­tion.

Chair Lloyd Fer­gu­son says the board has struck a three-mem­ber com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the le­gal and ad­min­is­tra­tive ram­i­fi­ca­tions of mak­ing such a change.

He says the board de­cided to delve into it af­ter a “good con­ver­sa­tion” with po­lice chief Eric Girt.

“Cer­tainly we’re all very in­ter­ested in a civil­ian CEO as a pos­si­bil­ity — some­one more sea­soned on bud­get­ing, hu­man re­sources and the other civil­ian du­ties that the force pro­vides,” said Fer­gu­son, who also rep­re­sents An­caster on city coun­cil.

“We’re giv­ing this a lot of thought and get­ting a lot of pro­fes­sional ad­vice and we’ll re­port back to the board with a rec­om­men­da­tion.”

He says the com­mit­tee may be in a po­si­tion to make a rec­om­men­da­tion at the board’s June 16 meet­ing.

If the de­ci­sion is not to go with a civil­ian, Fer­gu­son says the board will hire a re­cruit­ing firm and most likely launch an ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal search for a uni­formed can­di­date.

Fer­gu­son first floated hir­ing a civil­ian chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer shortly af­ter deputy chief Ken Weather­ill un­ex­pect­edly an­nounced his re­tire­ment in March.

He’s clearly pleased the board picked up on the pos­si­bil­ity, which he sees as hav­ing the po­ten­tial ben­e­fit of sav­ing money on salary and bring­ing some­one aboard with a stronger fi­nan­cial back­ground than most uni­formed of­fi­cers have.

But mov­ing to a civil­ian CEO would be a big change that would re­quire a bit of a bal­anc­ing act.

Hamil­ton tra­di­tion­ally has two deputies who re­port to the chief. One is re­spon­si­ble for in­ves­ti­ga­tions and com­mu­nity polic­ing. That’s Dan Kin­sella, who took over the role last Oc­to­ber af­ter for­mer deputy chief Girt moved into the chief ’s chair, va­cated by Glenn De Caire.

The other deputy is in charge of “field sup­port,” which in­cludes fi­nance, ad­min­is­tra­tion and such cor­po­rate ser­vices as com­mu­ni­ca­tions, hu­man re­sources and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. That’s the job va­cated by Weather­ill.

A Hamil­ton vet­eran of 31 years, Weather­ill was only deputy chief for two-and­half years. Af­ter re­tir­ing from Hamil­ton, he be­came deputy po­lice chief in Bar­rie.

As with any un­ex­pected de­par­tures, Weather­ill’s sparked all kinds of ru­mours. Some said he and Girt didn’t get along. Oth­ers said he couldn’t get past his dis­ap­point­ment over the board choos­ing Girt for chief in­stead of him.

Re­gard­less, the open po­si­tion needs to be oc­cu­pied in one form or an­other. Girt is cur­rently fill­ing it by ro­tat­ing su­per­in­ten­dents into the role of act­ing deputy chief.

Whether it’s per­ma­nently filled by some­one wearing civvies or a badge may de­pend on an­swers to a few key ques­tions.

Fer­gu­son notes the board cer­tainly has ju­ris­dic­tion un­der the Po­lice Ser­vices Act to hire the chief and deputies, but it’s un­clear if that ex­tends to a civil­ian CEO.

He also notes that the On­tario Civil­ian Po­lice Com­mis­sion has pre­vi­ously ruled that a CEO has to be a mem­ber of the po­lice ser­vice’s se­nior of­fi­cers as­so­ci­a­tion.

Fer­gu­son says that could be “prob­lem­atic,” be­cause the board en­vi­sions a CEO work­ing with them on con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions with both the se­nior of­fi­cers and rank and file unions.

Ad­di­tion­ally, some re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that cur­rently fall on the shoul­ders of the field sup­port deputy would have to be shifted if a civil­ian was hired, be­cause they in­volve com­mand­ing sworn of­fi­cers.

Ob­vi­ously, a lot of is­sues need to be worked through and weighed, in­clud­ing this one: Opt­ing for only one deputy chief will au­to­mat­i­cally re­duce the num­ber of in­ter­nal can­di­dates likely to ap­ply the next time the chief’s job opens up.

Cer­tainly we’re all very in­ter­ested in a civil­ian CEO as a pos­si­bil­ity. … We’re giv­ing this a lot of thought and get­ting a lot of pro­fes­sional ad­vice.” LLOYD FER­GU­SON PO­LICE BOARD CHAIR

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