There will be an independent review of how police responded after violence broke out at this year’s Hamilton Pride festival.
On Thursday, the Hamilton police services board unanimously voted in favour of having an external legal counsel lead the review of police actions before, during, and after the June 15 event at Gage Park.
There have been a number of criticisms from members of Hamilton’s LGBTQ2 community about how police responded when homophobic and far-right protesters showed up at the Pride festival, violently clashing with Pride supporters.
Some people said police took too long to respond to the violence. Some have also expressed anger that, of those arrested, four of them were members of the LGBTQ2 community and only one was from the anti-Pride contingent.
Fred Bennink, board member and chair of the subcommittee assigned to look into the review options, said the lawyer selected to conduct the review will be “highly regarded” in terms of their knowledge of policing.
It will cost taxpayers between $400,000 and $600,000 and the results of the review will be presented to the board before next year’s Pride event.
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“Our hope is that, through this, relationships can be healed and we can have more meaningful relationships,” Bennink said. “We are committed, as it is our hope, to use this review process to honour members of our community who feel alienated.”
Hiring a lawyer to do the review was one of three options the committee looked at. The other two were having it conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) or a retired judge. The OIPRD declined due to a lack of resources and Bennink said a retired judge would have cost between $1 million and $2 million and wouldn’t have been able to complete a review by next summer.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger agreed that having a lawyer lead the review is the best option, adding that it’s important not to drag out the process.
“I think the external legal counsel approach is not only cost-effective, but will also be timely, and I think timeliness is an important factor in this,” Eisenberger said. “We don’t want this to go on for years, we want this to have an end time. We want it to be thorough, fair, equitable, but also timely in terms of reporting back.”
Ward 6 Councillor and fellow board member Tom Jackson shared those sentiments.
“External legal counsel will be as impartial, as independent — in my humble opinion, as possibly could be,” Jackson said. “To just get down to the bare facts of what happened, what should have happened, what could have happened, what happened just as it should have, and provide that totally independent, impartial report back to our board.”
The OIPRD is already investigating a conduct complaint against Hamilton Police related to Pride.
Three service complaints were also filed, which are being handled by Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt.