Police Chief Glenn DeCaire will be around for another three years, so the approximately 500 officers out of a 1200-member force that said they were unhappy with the chief will have to get over it. There are a variety of reasons why a boss is unpopular– ranging from he really is no good…to he’s trying to change a culture of entitlement and the entitled don’t like it. People familiar with the police service suggest the latter is closer to the truth. That’s not to say the Chief is without any faults. His ‘take it or leave’ it style in police budget discussions rankled some members of council a couple of years back, but since then he has brought in two budgets with only modest increases. In terms of the things taxpayers should care about; violent crime is down almost 30 percent and auto theft is down 60 percent. Security at the 2015 Pan Am Games was also deemed a success. Credit for the 7-0 vote to reappoint Chief DeCaire goes to Mayor Fred Eisenberger who reportedly was instrumental in securing the unanimous vote. Board members Terry Whitehead and Walter Juchniewicz, who have been critical of the Chief in the past, took a prudent course in agreeing to the compromise. To allow an anonymous satisfaction survey containing what Police Services Board Chair Lloyd Ferguson claimed were “leading “ questions, be the deciding factor in reappointing the chief would have set a dangerous precedent.
On the other hand, it was also a positive development that Hamilton City Council voted to conduct an independent audit of the Police Services books. It not about any suggestion that anything is amiss in the service’s accounting; it’s just that when the taxpayers are forking over $154 Million a year as they are in the case of the police service; due diligence requires there be an adequate level of independent financial scrutiny. This was not the case when the police budget was only getting a cursory examination as part of the city’s overall budget process. Audits often help organizations improve financial controls and even save money. Both the Chief’s reappointment and the audit decision underline the vital importance of civilian oversight of our police services. Police services boards need to strike a healthy balance between being a rubber stamp and meddling in the operation of the department.