On November 14th, 2019, the Police Services Board in Hamilton met with management from the Hamilton Police Service.
These meetings occur on about a monthly basis and I encourage members of the community to attend to hear how policing is approached in Hamilton.
On this occasion, many issues were discussed, but I'll speak about two issues which came up.
The first, is the investigation into police response of the Gay Pride Parade. I discussed this shortly after it occurred, you can find that video linked below:
The response from the police brought upset sentiments from the community regarding how it was handled. I'll leave those sentiments to be discussed by those closely affected by the fallout, and I'll focus on the police.
At the PSB meeting, we learned that a law firm from Toronto has been hired by the Police Services Board to investigate the conduct of the Hamilton Police Service. The lawyer leading this is investigation is Scott Bergman, who was in attendance. Mr. Bergman encouraged members of the community to contact him directly by email, which will be linked below along with their website:
It was also disclosed that the cost of this investigation will be no more than $500,000 + HST. As Mr. Bergman was discussing this issue, it became clear to me that there will be little to no value added to the community at the closure of this investigation. Mr. Bergman says the purpose of the investigation isn't to place blame or find misconduct, which is odd. The job of the police is to literally find blame and misconduct, and to hold those responsible directly accountable. It seems, that when investigating themselves, the Hamilton Police Service prefers the soft approach. If they took that approach with the public they could relinquish their handcuffs.
Another concern with this investigation is the very nature of a law firm being hired. Mr. Bergman spoke about numerous other investigations the firm has been involved in. This is concerning as would this particular firm be hired if there was an expectation of firm and definitive findings? Or were they hired because they'll avoid blame.
At the cost of one half of one million dollars, I would expect better, but I can't considering this is involving the Hamilton Police Service.
To the next point, body worn cameras. Eric Girt, the Chief of Police in Hamilton, spoke to there being a myriad of reasons to not implement cameras on police officers. There was a discussion about the need for multiple angles required in the form of videos to development the totality of an incident. My response to that is that it is correct, but it's hardly a reason to not implement one camera on an officer. Mr. Girt also spoke about Hollywood films, suggesting that films are captivating as they use multiple angles. This, to me, speaks about the gross insensitivity of Mr. Girt in his conduct of a Chief of Police. The community wants body worn cameras on officers to produce better accountability, especially in regards to police involved shootings. The fact that Mr. Girt spoke about Hollywood as a way to downplay the value of these cameras should be shocking, but hearing Mr. Girt speak over the years, it is expected. Another point raised by Mr. Girt is the need to still have witness testimony in investigations. Strange, when I was a police officer the first thing I would seek out is video evidence. Video evidence instantly gives the best descriptions and air of an incident. Video is not tainted by partial witnesses, or testimony given by a witness who has sparse memory. Yes, the angle of a camera can show more or less than an officer may see, which are factors which can be explained. Even with a video of a police incident that doesn't show the totality, valuable evidence can still be derived in the favour of police, or the subject.
My thoughts are that Mr. Girt has mismanaged the Hamilton Police Service, and is paying exorbitant amounts to have overtime officers cover the minimum staffing requirements. The value of body worn cameras is being downplayed using any and every nonsensical reason in order to avoid the pressing management failure at the hands of Mr. Girt.
During the meeting, a man stood up and shouted at the PSB and managers. This man identified as Norm Dorr, who is a family member of Steve Mesic. Mr. Mesic was shot and killed by the police in Hamilton several years prior. Mr. Dorr was shouting out about the need for police to use body cameras, a position I agree with. While he was shouting, the mayor and head of the PSB, Fred Eisenberger, immediately and vocally began dismissing Mr. Dorr. Mr. Dorr left the meeting and was followed by 3 reporters looking to speak, an option that was available to the PSB.
My thoughts are this: Earlier, the lawyer Scott Bergman spoke in buzzwords about the value he will add to the community. These buzzwords are used by police often, “Build trust and confidence”, “ Build relationships”, “Stakeholder”. These words are meaningless if held against the actual conduct of the Hamilton Police Service. This observation was obvious with the treatment of Mr. Dorr. Mr. Dorr is a stakeholder and community member, and considering his position, is a person the police should seek building a relationship with. Is that what occurred? Of course not. Mr. Dorr was dismissed, and in so doing, an opportunity for the police to mend and build a relationship was lost.
A competent leader would have given Mr. Dorr the opportunity to speak briefly, and offered a commitment to follow up. Mr. Dorr has considerations that the police may not have seen, and the same is true in the inverse. Would it have been so very troubling to give Mr. Dorr the opportunity to speak, and give him the chance to submit his positions for consideration in future body camera discussions? I don't think it would be. Is it appropriate to shout out during a meeting? No, of course not. However, police need to show compassion, and considering Mr. Dorr's history it would have been refreshing for Mr. Eisenberger and Mr. Girt to show an aptitude for customer service. To the point of speaking about building relationship and failing to do the same:
Facta Non Verba
It means “deeds, not words”. You, the taxpayer of Hamilton, are paying a hefty sum for a lot of words and a little action.
Immediate video response to the meeting: