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Hamilton police seek 3.9 per cent budget bump

Hamilton police Chief Frank Bergen says he needs to hire 13 additional officers to meet mandated minimum standards and growing calls for service. Shallima Maharaj / Global News

The Hamilton Police Service is requesting a 3.9 per cent increase to its budget this year.

The $183-million police budget represents 18 per cent of the overall city levy, a percentage that has not changed in the past five years, according to Hamilton police Chief Frank Bergen’s presentation to city councillors on Thursday.

Read more: Councillors approve 2021 Hamilton police budget, reject reallocating surplus to community services

Bergen says this year’s increase would allow for the hiring of 13 additional officers, after the service paid out $2.7 million in overtime in 2021.

“That overtime is to make sure that we have the ability to put minimum response officers in every division,” says Bergen.

He adds that minimum standards are not only mandated, but part of the service’s collective agreement with the Hamilton Police Association.

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Bergen also stresses that police are grappling with “a growing number of calls for service,” pointing to a nine per cent overall increase in dispatches last year.

Read more: Hamilton police launch Project Strong following 51 shootings in the city in 2020

There was a nine per cent increase in calls related to persons in crisis, a four per cent increase in domestic violence-related calls and a 17 per cent increase in ambulance assist calls. Hamilton also reported a record 19 homicides in 2021.

Bergen’s presentation indicates that Hamilton has about 146 officers per 100,000 population, below the national median of 157 officers per 100,000.

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