A look at the proposed 2023 Hamilton Police Services budget
City council to vote on the proposed Hamilton Police Services Budget that raised concerns for several council members
Hamilton Police Services board is suggesting a $12 million addition in budget this year. The city council will meet in a public delegation on Monday, Feb. 6 with hopes to set the HPS operating budget for 2023.
Police Chief Frank Bergen says the increase in budget is to account for a growing population and an increasing crime severity in Hamilton. Without an increase in budget to hire new officers, Bergen says the current officer to civilian ratio cannot be maintained.
Bergen also claimed that this budget would be 18.5 per cent of Hamilton’s overall spending, the same percentage as in 2022. He also pointed out that seemingly small operation costs add up and specifically mentioned the $134 904 spent by the HPS to enforce the nuisance bylaw during McMaster’s Fake Homecoming.
Although this budget was approved by the Police Services Board, Ward 2 city councillor Cameron Kroetsch has questioned the 6.71 per cent increase due to what he called a lack of prioritizing the voices of Hamiltonians in regard to policing over the past few years.
During the 2020 Hamilton Black Lives Matter protests there were calls for cuts up to 20 per cent of the HPS budget that were met with little consequence; the HPS budget has only increased from the $170,815,160 in 2020. Calls for introducing new operating policies such body cams have also not been met. A rally has been organized for Monday night at 5:30 p.m. to protest the $12 million increase in budget.
Kroetsch asked if community needs, such as experts replacing police officers on scenes for mental health emergencies, were going to be included in this additional $12 million. Bergen responded with the concern that creating a mental health initiative such as this, while beneficial for the community, would not come cheap.
Other council members have expressed concerns with the HPS proposed budget. For example, Ward 4 city councillor Tammy Hwang challenged Bergen about the diversity of hires in the newly proposed 13 officers that would be hired annually over the next 8 years.
If the city council chooses to reject this budget the police services board has the option to propose a new version or to appeal using the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. According to OCPC, the HPS has not filed for an appeal in over 20 years.
This is an ongoing story.