Motions to claw back $214.8 million Hamilton Police budget shot down


Published February 13, 2024 at 4:58 pm

Hamilton Police Services Board

A motion put forward by two members of the Hamilton Police Services Board asking for nearly $5 million to be cut from the police budget was shot down by the board Tuesday.

In fact, all four motions put forward by Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch and board member Dr. Anjali Menezes were defeated – one-by one- by identical 5-2 votes.

The only votes that were approved (by 5-2 both times) were to wrap up the meeting and a final vote to send the police budget back to Hamilton Council with no amendments.

The Hamilton Police Services Board, on the pretence of not finding a room large enough for the expected public turnout – nearly a hundred delegates showed up in the council chambers earlier this year demanding a chunk of the $214.8 million budget be allocated elsewhere (such as affordable housing) – originally declared it was holding the meeting in private.

The board changed course Tuesday, only to have the live feed malfunction. So Hamilton Council watchdog Joey Coleman, the publisher of the Public Record, brought his own camera into the room and live-tweeted each motion as it went to the vote.

The first three motions, which dealt with cuts to non-mandated funding – the ceremonial and mounted units, the police choir, advertising, proposals to defer parking lot repairs and decrease the office supply budgets, etc. – were systematically defeated by the other members of the Police Services Board, which included Ward 7 Councillor Esther Pauls and Mayor Andrea Horwath.

The discussions on the motions, according to a tweet from Coleman, included a lengthy and testy debate about the line-by-line budget review “micromanaging” the police service.

The fourth motion, the deferral of hiring and a review of police staffing allocations was also dismissed 5-2.

“This is dysfunctional,” Coleman said on his thread on ‘X.’ “The Board Admin and Chair are making it up as they go.”

Kroetsch thanked Hamilton residents who wrote in support for the proposed cuts on his own social media post but was clearly frustrated during the meeting, saying it was “sad” Council must now tell the public the Police Servies Board “cannot find any additional savings.”

“In our view, there are many potential areas for savings and while we can’t direct the chief on specific operational decisions, the budget is ultimately the board’s responsibility,” he said prior to Tuesday’s meeting. “We’ve made recommendations to increase the overall fiscal accountability of the budget, which is our duty as members of the board.”

Horwath, however, called it a “sound budget” while Pauls said she has “full confidence” Hamilton Police will be fiscally responsible with the money that will be awarded – an 8.41 per cent increase over last year.

On Jan. 30, Hamilton council voted to send the police budget back for further review, citing both the mayor’s overall budget directive to reduce costs and a council motion asking for all municipal staff to meet a cap of four per cent on municipally generated increases.

The board consists of seven members, including Horwath, Pauls, Pat Mandy (chair), Fred Bennink and Geordie Elms. Menezes is a citizen member of the board.

Menezes, who expressed concerns about the entire process at the board meeting, said many of the comments raised to Council during budget delegations were about police budget increases. “The community has spoken.”

Hamilton Council and the community will get their final say on the budget Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

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