On Police Policies and Proactive Disclosure, Hamilton Police Should be Transparent

Hamilton Police need to start making their policies available online, and do so proactively.

I wrote about a court ruling, released yesterday, ordering Hamilton Police to disclose reports related to a collision involving a Hamilton Police officer in 2008.

All collisions involving Hamilton Police officers are investigated different from normal collisions under a policy entitled “Damage to and/or Collisions Involving Police Vehicles.”

It’s not available online and I’ve requested a copy.

As part of my search for this policy, I found numerous similar policies proactively disclosed by police forces in the United Kingdom.

More importantly, these police forces disclose a large number of their policies for public viewing.

De-escalation Policies

Police de-escalation policies are of wide public interest after the recent shooting death of Sammy Yatim in Toronto that garnered much public attention. A police officer is charged with second degree murder in this case.

The Sammy Yatim shooting death is the exception, police de-escalate conflicts all the time.

In Hamilton, police took individuals to St. Joseph’s Hospital for emergency psychiatry services 1351 times in a year. Statistics are not available for the number of these cases that involved “de-escalation”, it can be assumed many of them involved calming an individual before taking them for medicial care.

I witness police de-escalating incidents on a regular basis – it’s more of what they do than arrest.

Policies are Public Documents, Make Them Public

The Hamilton Spectator and Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark have similar, but separate, requests to the Hamilton Police Service for their policies related to mental health, use-of-force, and de-escalation of conflict situations.

Clark’s request is part of a motion, expected to be passed, at Council tonight.

My request is being looked into.

Each request is being handled manually and on a case-by-case basis.

Public confidence in policing is based solely upon trust. Trust requires transparency.

Hamilton Police should identify which of its policies can be made public without jeopardizing safety, and immediately start releasing those documents.