Thursday, July 14, 2016

With Police Chief Girt: On Forensics Building requirements

Many of our readers will know that the Police Services has, for some time, pursued funding for a new Forensics building. The following chat with Chief Girt explores this issue:

1. Chief Girt. We note that the funding for a new forensic centre that the police is seeking remains unresolved. Can you explain to Hamiltonians why having this centre is important. How will it help police and how what impact will it have on the best interests of Hamiltonians?

The highest priority for the Hamilton Police Service is the need to upgrade its Forensic laboratory. In addition, the Service is faced with a 50,000 square foot space deficit. To retrofit the existing Forensic Identification Unit (FIU) is an expensive option that would interrupt forensics operations and not address the Service’s overall space needs challenges. The shortfall in space has required the dispersion of various units of the Investigative Services Division in four different police facilities creating significant inefficiencies. This dual need was reviewed and acknowledged by the Hamilton Police Services Board in 2010 and re-affirmed in 2014.

The current FIU configuration and space allocation creates significant risk to the Service and the City

of Hamilton. The lab was designed prior to the ability to use DNA as a forensic tool. City Council is aware of the risks associated with delaying this project. The integrity of all major criminal investigations that rely on forensic evidence hinge on the ability of the Service to eliminate the possibility of cross contamination of evidence – the current facility does not provide adequate protection without extensive alternate measures to ensure this does not happen.

2. It there an opportunity to scale down the requirements of the build, so that the costs are reduced. In other words, is there an opportunity to scale down the build to a bare bones type of centre that is nonetheless scalable for future needs but, at the same time, addresses the essentials of the required work. In other words, a no frills version that can nonetheless scale upwards to meet future and emerging needs, if required?

The construction of a new 50,000 square foot Investigative Services Division facility, which includes the FIU, is a solution that addresses both the immediate need of forensics, as well as the Service’s current overall space needs. It is the only cost effective solution.

Five alternate options were presented back in 2010 and work has continued to look at alternate approaches that both met the needs while being fiscally responsible. There will be a presentation on the Service’s Investigative Services Building project at an upcoming Police Services Board meeting.

3. What efforts have been made to receive funding from the multiple tiers of government for the forensics centre, what has the result been and what further efforts might be made?

Police Services Board approval for the new facility was received in 2010 to proceed with construction of a new 50,000 square facility at a cost of $15 million. Of the estimated capital costs, the Service is seeking two thirds funding from the provincial and federal governments.

This funding model of one third each from municipality, provincial and federal government has been used frequently in the past to fund capital projects. While a number of requests have been made to the province and federal governments, none have yet to be realized/approved. We remain hopeful that we would be able to receive any available provincial and/or federal funding for this important capital project.

Thanks Chief Girt for engaging with Hamiltonian via The Hamiltonian


  1. AnonymousJuly 14, 2016

    The hitch to any bid for senior government money is matching funds. But $5M should be in the HPS' couch cushions.

    2016 Boards & Agencies Preliminary Budgets
    Hamilton Police Services
    2015 Budget Net $148,375,880
    2016 Budget Net $153,984,750
    Change: $5,608,870

    See? Change.

  2. determine your priorities within the framework of the allocated budget. Time for a leader to step up and begin repairing a broken model.

  3. AnonymousJuly 15, 2016

    it reminds me of wen i was a kid and the hamilton police were getting into trouble on a regular basis for drinking alcohol that was seized during various police calls. to them it was just left over booze that no one was using that was going to get destroyed. there was no explicit law against police consuming seized alcohol after it had no value to the court. the police and many in the public didnt see it as a big deal, spoils of war and all that. of course this stopped eventually and we look back in disgust that we ever allowed them to behave that way. culturally for the police it seems to be a thin line between "leftover seized booze to be drank unaccountably" and "leftover public tax money to be spent unaccountably".

  4. AnonymousJuly 15, 2016

    "The highest priority for the Hamilton Police Service is the need to upgrade its Forensic laboratory."

    This need was identified in 2010. Allocating $1M annually toward that end would have largely solved this problem. How much has been set aside to this end? If the answer is "nothing", what pre-empted "the highest priority for the Hamilton Police Service"?

  5. Crime has gotten more and more complex with technology. We can't hand cuff our police services from keeping up.

    1. AnonymousJuly 15, 2016

      you advocate spending tens of millions of hamilton tax dollars for the forensics building. yet to date no business case submitted, no independent auditors report submitted, no evaluation of needs done by the city or submitted by the police. just the word of the police department they want more money. quite an alarming amount of trust with my tax dollars. do you use the same standard on say... the lrt? no.

  6. AnonymousJuly 15, 2016

    "The Hamilton Police Service is 17.2 per cent diverse (ie: officers that are Aboriginal or of a visible minority) compared to the city's population, which is 17.7 per cent diverse, according to the 2011 National Household Survey."


    I suspect that this is better than City Hall. It's definitely far better than council.

    1. AnonymousJuly 15, 2016

      Please advise how this relates to the story about funding for a forensics lab.

    2. AnonymousJuly 18, 2016

      Kudos to the HPS, reflecting the community.

  7. AnonymousJuly 15, 2016

    Isn't 1 in 5 tax dollars allocated for HPS?
    Are they unable to save?
    Don't they always ask for more money, then get it, then declare a surplus, then keep that surplus?
    Why do we have an armored vehicle? How many lives has it saved?
    How much waste is there at HPS (unnecessary OT, bureaucracy, misallocation of resources, etc.)?

    Someone should run a 6 sigma process against all city departments and see how much waste there is!

  8. The concept of zero based budgeting should be imposed on all organizations that work from the public purse, every 10 years. It will never happen because organizations know that they could not justify a reinvention of themselves to their current size and scope.this is true of all entities and not just the his. Having said that it is both more costly in terms of money and human life,to not allow them to have needed resources to fight crime on its new terms.

    1. AnonymousJuly 19, 2016

      is that your order of priorities? saving money THEN comes saving human life? how about this. for every ten million dollars the police get for a new forensic building thousands of seniors and children and single mothers do without. they dont get subsidized transit passes, rates go up at rec centres, food allowances are cut. you cant give extra to the police without taking from somewhere, and in hamilton that always seems to be the vulnerable. so when you talk about "human life" think about the human lives hurt when tax dollars are spent on multi million dollar building upgrades for the police instead of average citizens.

    2. I think you may have misunderstood me.

      I am saying two things:

      1. Every public department should be put through a zero based budgeting approach.

      2. The police should be equipped to fight crime on its new terms- which will require a more sophisticated ability to do forensics.

      The two points are not necessary linked. In terms of value for money, I'd rather we are better able to manage crime. If we can't do that well, it just drives up all those costs you seem to be concerned about.

      Assuming I don't care for others is wrong.

    3. AnonymousJuly 19, 2016

      wow, I really am a hypocrite. Imagine advocating for a billion dollar investment that actually diminishes services for the elderly and handicapped (hard to get more vulnerable than that) A billion dollars in tax money that the average citizen has no say in how it is going to be spent-imagine what a real leader could do for the vulnerable with that cash! And I get my shorts all bunched up over a few million for enemy number one-law and order. Guess you could call me selfish too. I hate those guys. Priorities?

    4. AnonymousJuly 19, 2016

      ".a billion dollar investment.." does this commenter refer to the lrt? im not following much of what the commenter was trying to contribute. they cant be refering to the one billion dollar investment in lrt. thats fully funded by by metrolinx with provincial tax dollars that have already been collected and allocated for spending on rapid transit. on a purely dollars and cents level, if we reject the one billion dollars in provincial tax money (a minuscule portion contributed by hamilton taxpayers, the vast bulk from everyone else province wide) it will be spent anyway. just somewhere else. we are talking about a capital expenditure (which legally is the sole domain and discretion of council) totaling untold tens of millions of dollars, money is 100% drawn from future hamilton municipal tax's. as opposed to lrt and mass rapid public transit which will receive 100% of its funding from the province, and be supported with subsidies from the federal government, both the province AND the feds have rejected the request for funding from the hps. in other non-news, the lrt has a business case and independent needs assessmentand projected rois that have been audited, vetted, and peer and expert reviewed and approved at all levels of government involved. then you have the hps, with no offical request that has been evaluated or considered. just a request from the chief "more money please". next time try and compare apples to apples not raisins to comquats. IF thats what you where trying to do. your post was a real fruit salad of mismatched disparate non comparisons.

  9. AnonymousJuly 21, 2016

    I don't know, I keep thinking it would be best to have one police force in Ontario. For that matter, maybe one fire service too. The budgets are way out of control, what one gets, the other gets plus more. The Ontario Government needs to fix the broken arbitration system.

    We just witnessed a huge success with the Bosma trial where multiple police forces contributed to the outcome. Why does every City need their own glorified forensic's lab? If there is a gap then the Province should step up and provide such Provincially. I have little faith in such an important facility being managed by the HPS.

    1. AnonymousJuly 21, 2016

      "If there is a gap'''" exactly. IF.

  10. AnonymousJuly 21, 2016

    and how am I supposed to reconcile Ferguson's support for the forensics lab against his support of LRT? I mean is this guy a visionary with courage or a heavy handed autocrat? Such a quandary for my limited faculties. Can't he be both? Maybe I shouldn't have brought it up.


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