We thought it would be timely to check in with Chief Eric Girt. Enjoy this Q/A with the Chief.
The primary focus continues to remain on public trust. It is a continuous work in progress and we work to maintain it daily. I will remain focused on Community relations, by continuing to work with and meet with external agencies, committees, advocacy groups and partners in the delivery of service. Internally, I will communicate our priorities and strategies to the front-line, mid-level managers, senior command and the Hamilton Police Association. Full implementation of technology to enhance our crime analytics ability to mine the data we currently have is paramount. We remain focused on financial accountability and will continue to reduce costs where possible, avoid costs and work through collaborative means both with external agencies and law enforcement partners to increase public safety. The acquisition of proper forensic facilities is an obvious priority. Wellness and mental health strategies both external and for our own members also continues to be a priority.
Do you think there is any advantage of having worked your way through the ranks? If so, what lessons have you learned along the way that will help guide you as you execute your new role?
There are several advantages of working through the ranks here. First is the knowledge of the organization, all of the units that comprise it and how the internal systems work to serve the public. That is, how do all the parts work together and what processes make it work efficiently or more effectively. It is also about the people that make up the organization and knowing their strengths and how best to develop those assets. Mentoring, development and succession planning is critical for our organization.
Continuing to build relationships is also important for our Service. We have used the “wraparound” and “hub” principles within this community for years and this is obviously what the province and municipality are looking at to provide co-ordinated services to those we serve. Having knowledge of formal institutions, not for profit agencies, community groups and advocacy groups and continuing to enhance those existing relationships over the long term is critical to all our success.
As Chief, you may be faced with fighting for what you would consider a necessary budget to provide police services reasonably to Hamiltonians. In the past, this has been a topic of great debate. How will you handle the pressure you might face from politicians to curb spending, while keeping the safety of Hamiltonians at the forefront. And how will you deal with the fact that the majority of the police budget is not within your direct control?
As you know under the Police Service Act we have five core areas to deliver public safety within the community. We continue to focus on prevention as a more cost effective method than enforcement. When we do enforce the laws it is critical to also provide service to the victims of offences. This is my responsibility as well as the Hamilton Police Service Board and we will continue to work together through governance and operations to deliver that service. We are well aware of the continued need to serve those with mental illness, addictions and people faced with poverty on a daily basis. When we can realize efficiencies in serving those most in need, such as our most recent initiative, the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team (MCRRT), we meet two needs. Most recently the Crisis Response unit is now integrated with the Social Navigator Program and the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) program in the newly created Crisis Response Unit. This unit has allowed front line officers to return to other duties while we assist persons in crisis in getting the help they need through less intrusive means, in concert with external agencies that have the expertise to assist them. We understand financial restraint and the need to be creative. Through our MCRRT program, we continue to save thousands of hours for our frontline and while doing this, most importantly, we are responding effectively to the needs of people in crisis. What drove this initiative was a compelling need as I said earlier. Funding was also a part of it, and we were able to deliver enhanced service with our partners from St. Joseph’s Healthcare. As well, on the funding side, this was accomplished through LHIN, Local Health Integrated Systems of Hamilton. This is the way forward. Identifying need, being responsive, finding an effective solution, delivering better service.
We need to be just as creative to meet capital expenditures. We have an identified need for a new forensics building. We have secured one third of the funding, however, have yet to realize any provincial or federal monies. We will continue to seek funding.
In the past Chief DeCaire showed very staunch leadership in standing his ground on a number of issues, including what he believed to be reasonable increases to the police budget. Some may be wondering the degree to which you will stand firm for your convictions- even in the face of political influence and pressure. Can you comment on that?
As a Deputy Chief of both Field Support and Community Policing, I was part of the Command Team during Chief DeCaire’s tenure. We worked together to develop the budget, assess the needs to deliver public safety and then, most recently, deliver the lowest budget in 16 years. I will remain collaborative with our Senior Command to deliver the budget as a team. Further, as the resource for the Board for the last two rounds of bargaining, I am aware of both salary and benefits and we have worked hard to balance the needs of the public with those of our members. One of the areas is obviously the provision of preventative programs to ameliorate the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We remain committed to our three pillars – prevention, intervention and post vention. As you know many of those strategies involve external clinicians with the expertise to provide service. This is often done through our benefits program. Similar to my earlier comments on public safety we know that prevention is less costly then intervention after the fact. Our goal is to keep our members resilient and healthy so that they can continue to do the often difficult job that they do.
The Hamiltonian wishes you the best as the new Chief of Police. Is there anything you’d like to let our readers know, relative to your new role and your focus?
Our focus is public safety. We are here to help people, to protect those who cannot protect themselves and to help solve and manage problems for the greater good. We are in the business of working with people and with providing solutions, exploring innovative alternatives and doing so in a compassionate manner.
To maintain the public trust, we will continue to respond professionally, with our compassion and empathy, when people ask for help. This applies to our citizens and our members. I believe we are capable of meeting the challenges we will face through the knowledge, skills, and abilities for us all. We choose to help and we have chosen to serve our community. I am proud to serve with the men and women of Hamilton Police.
Thank-you Chief Girt for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian.