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