Chief discloses $207M Hamilton police budget for 2024 to city councillors

Chief Frank Bergen during a presentation to a general issues committee Monday Jan. 22, 2024. City of Hamilton

Hamilton’s police chief said challenges connected with maintaining core services, salaries and other employee-related costs is the reason the service needs a $13.3 million bump year over year from the city’s 2024 budget.

Chief Frank Bergen presented the $206.9-million total 2024 police budget before a committee Monday revealing a $9.24M, or 4.77 per cent, increase will be needed just to maintain core services, largely tied to wages via collective agreements, benefit rates and employee compensation costs.

“Before we even open our 2024 books, we are looking at a 5.92 per cent pressure,” he told councillors.

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“Those board-approved pressures stem mainly from employee-related costs which are 90 percent of the total gross operating budget expenditures.”

Part of sustaining core services includes taking on more full-time equivalent (FTE) staffers, including two detectives, a support worker, 13 civilian workers and 13 sworn constables as per guidelines from a “human capital plan.”

Hamilton police chief Frank Bergen presented a $206.9-million 2024 budget before a committee Monday revealing a $9.24M, or 4.77 per cent, increase will be needed just to maintain core services. City Of Hamilton

In all, the total ask is a 10.24-per cent increase from 2023, or about $19.8 million, when a $6.5 million increase in mandatory Police Services Act (PSA) items tied to infrastructure are added — like vehicles, boats, equipment, communication devices, building and supplies.

Last year’s budget required close to $196 million with just over $2.2 million in PSA items.

The police board approved the 2024 number via a four to two vote on Dec. 14 with two board members, Dr. Anjali Menezes and Ward 2 Coun. Cameron Kroetsch, opposed.

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Chief discloses $207M Hamilton police budget for 2024 to city councillors - image
City of Hamilton

Kroetch would elaborate on his opposition alleging “due diligence” was not practiced since he was “not able to go through the budget in any kind of detailed manner” during board meetings in 2023.

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“The board in no manner, in no way reviewed the budget in detail,” he said.

Ward 5 Coun. Matt Francis was a supporter of the presentation, submitting it’s what residents are asking for.

“Consistently (I hear) a few things from my residents for service requests, and that’s fixing our parks, fixing our roads, keeping our communities and roads safe. Our residents consistently ask for more police in our communities, not less,” Francis said.


'No way to truly measure' if police budgets fail to reduce crime, says chief

Hamilton’s chief somewhat downplayed a recent study that sought to find a correlation between spending and crime rates in Canada, suggesting it was “not statistically significant.”

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The study, published in the journal Canadian Public Policy, suggested increasing police budgets doesn’t necessarily reduce crime rates in Canada.

In response to Ward 2 Coun. Kroetsch’s question asking whether it was “an important study,” Bergen insisted “limited data points” was an issue and repeated an excerpt in the analysis that said it revealed “no consistent correlation” between funding and crime rates across the municipalities.

“There’s no way to truly measure what affects or what is the value of policing when in many cases, the average taxpayer is not calling the police,” Bergen said to councillors.

The study, which used numbers from 20 of Canada’s largest municipalities, found little in terms of the relationship between higher police budgets and a reduction in crime, even with spending on policing up over the last decade.

Melanie Seabrook, lead author on the study and a researcher at the Upstream Lab with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, told Global News they didn’t see “consistent correlations” across Canada with some municipalities having “negative correlation” indicating increases in police funding and a reduction in crime rates.

“There were also a couple of municipalities that had a positive correlation between the two, so an increase in policemen … correlated with an increase in crime rates,” said Seabrook.

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Seabrook says there’s “such a wide variation” in the “type of relationship” or “potential relationship” between police funding and crime rates across the 20 cities.

Despite some doubts, the chief did admit such “information is very valuable” and that the Hamilton Police would continue to contribute figures for further examination.

“We actually look at this as being significant for our city and continue to supply our data so the data set can be much more robust and allow us to make decisions moving forward,” he said.

Chief discloses $207M Hamilton police budget for 2024 to city councillors - image
Canadian Public Policy

The research specifically compared the “crime severity index,” (CSI) which tracks crimes by their seriousness, with large cities in Canada between 2010 to 2019 against budget information from 2010 to 2021.

It did note “data limitations” due to past budget information not being available online from some locations, including Hamilton.

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Seabrook said not all municipalities made detailed budgets available publicly on their websites and others did not respond to inquiries.

Several years of data on municipal budgets were missing for Peel, Waterloo, Surrey, Hamilton, London, Saskatoon, and Longueuil, according to Seabrook.

“I know that’s also a challenge in terms of breakdowns in police expenditures by function,” she explained.

“I would say that’s a challenge and I’d recommend that municipalities and police services try and make their financial data more, public.”


Hamilton Police Funding per Capita versus Crime Severity Index, 2010–2020.All data are adjusted for inflation in Canadian dollars. Canadian Public Policy




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