Independent review of police actions at Hamilton Pride to take spotlight at board meeting

Two contrasting reviews on Hamilton police actions before and after the 2019 Pride celebration in Gage Park will be front and centre at city's police services board meeting on Thursday afternoon. Will Erskine / Global News

Two separate police reviews tied to 2019 Pride activities in Gage Park are expected to be a highlight of the Hamilton Police Services (HPS) board meeting on Thursday afternoon.

One will be a report drawn up for the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), while the other, expected to be the feature presentation, is an independent review from Toronto lawyer Scott Bergman.

The latter is a 125-page report, which examined whether the HPS acted too slowly when protesters attacked festival-goers in June 2019.

The Bergman report says the HPS has a lot to apologize for, finding it “fell short in its planning and preparation for Pride 2019.”

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Hamilton’s 2018 Citizen of the Year and LGBTQ2 community member Graham Crawford, who was one of the individuals interviewed for the review, says it seems to reflect “what our community has been saying” about a confrontation between individuals during the 2019 event.

“The fact that the voices in our community who were expressing their views, not just views but facts and experiences, they are reflected in this report,” said Crawford.

The report said the HPS’s response was “inadequate” and that the service failed to properly consult with Pride organizers prior to and during the event, describing months of miscommunication and a lack of communication after Pride organizers submitted their plan in early 2019.

The report revealed that the crime manager of Division 20, responsible for patrolling Gage Park, didn’t even know Pride was happening until two days before the event.

“I think that I was quite pleased with and — I have to be honest — impressed with… lawyer Scott Bergman,” said Crawford, “What I was impressed with is that the report focuses on what happened prior to Pride other than the Pride violence itself.”

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The report suggests 38 recommendations, which include apologies for inadequate planning and absence of communication with Pride organizers, hands-on training and interaction for officers going forward with respect to LGBTQ2 issues and the consideration of a diversity audit or organizational culture review.

Global News reached out to Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who’s a police board member, for comment on the report. Eisenberger extended his thanks to Bergman and said he would “reserve” comments until his presentation is complete on Thursday.

Bergman’s conclusions in the report were based on interviews with 42 community members, 24 HPS officers and civilian staff as well as submissions from a wide range of individuals and local news stories.

OIPRD report

Also on the agenda for the police services board meeting will be an internal review of HPS’s actions at Pride 2019 sent to the OIPRD, which contrasts the Bergman report, saying that complaints were “thoroughly” investigated and found to be “unsubstantiated.”

The 110-page report, completed by an HPS staff sergeant in November and signed off on by police Chief Eric Girt in December, centres around three reported service complaints. The complaints allege that police failed to properly plan for the Pride event at Gage Park, that officers took too long to respond to the disturbance among “attendees and protesters” and that police failed to arrest protesters.

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After interviewing the complainants, witnesses and officers involved, an investigator was “satisfied” with the operational plan, saying it “reflected the most current information and intelligence” available to officers at the time.

The review also said that police followed proper response protocol in deploying 48 officers within a half-hour of being alerted about a confrontation at Gage Park.

Motion to cut police funding by 20 per cent

A motion from city councillor and police service board member Chad Collins revolving around a discussion to defund police is also expected to take the spotlight at the meeting on Thursday.

The conversation will encompass a potential 20 per cent cut in the police budget, as called for by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Ward 5 councillor’s motion calls for a reduction of just over $34 million of the HPS operating budget.

The action comes amid protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The idea would be to reallocate the $34 million to city services including jobs, health care, mental health and affordable housing.

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Click to play video: 'Black Lives Matter: How protests demanding racial equality are treated differently by police'
Black Lives Matter: How protests demanding racial equality are treated differently by police

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