Hamilton’s 2019 police budget has cleared its first hurdle.
The $166-million budget, which represents an increase of $5.2 million or 3.23 per cent, has received the approval of the Hamilton Police Services Board.
Police Chief Eric Girt’s budget calls for the hiring of 27 new staff this year to address areas of specific concern.
The new hires include a detective constable in the sexual assault unit, where the number of cases has increased 84 per cent in recent years, and two special constables for court security.
Twenty-four new front-line officers will be divided evenly across the city’s three patrol divisions.
Chief Girt says it will likely be late 2019 before all of them can be deployed, but he predicts the additional officers will eventually result in increased police visibility.
Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association, recently called current staffing levels a “crisis.”
In an interview with CHML’s Bill Kelly, he noted that last summer, officers from three specialized units had to be temporarily moved to cover vacancies in front-line patrol.
Chief Girt also revealed to the police services board on Tuesday that officers spent an additional 47,000 hours on calls for service last year.
He describes his budget request, which still needs final approval from city council, as a “responsible” balance between financial pressures and the needs of the community.