The International Association of Chiefs of Police is reviewing a prestigious award it bestowed on Hamilton’s ACTION Team now that five of its members face criminal charges.
It turns out ACTION was already under investigation for issuing fake tickets to some of our community’s most marginalized people when the IACP announced it had won the coveted Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement last November. In fact, just one week after the Hamilton Police Service issued a media release about winning the award, The Spectator broke the story of the ACTION (Addressing Crime Trends in Our Neighbourhoods) Team probe.
“We’ll have to take a look at everything so we, in conjunction with Motorola (the award sponsor) can make a determination about the next steps,” says Sarah Guy, spokesperson for the IACP, based in Virginia. “It is going to be a decision for our leadership.”
Guy declined to share Hamilton Police Service’s application for the award, saying that information is “not publicly available.”
On the IACP website, Hamilton’s ACTION Strategy Initiative is described: “Highly visible officers on foot and bike addressed violent crime and disorder issues … The strategy has led to a decrease in crime and an increase in the perception of safety and security.”
Much of the work of ACTION is focused on issuing tickets for everything from riding bikes on the sidewalk to public drunkenness. In 2014, ACTION issued 4,683 provincial offence notice tickets, according to Hamilton police statistics.
The IACP was unaware of the ACTION scandal until contacted by The Spectator. Guy says the association will have more to say on the issue next week.
Seven officers with the ACTION unit were arrested Tuesday and five have been charged with allegedly writing 32 falsified provincial offence tickets. They had all been pulled off the street and put on desk duty during a nine-month internal investigation beginning last September.
On its website, the IACP says that the Webber Seavey Award “recognizes tried and true solutions to a variety of problems that law enforcement officers face daily on the ground.”
It goes on to say that as well as recognizing the winners, the award “helps promote and share these approaches with the entire law enforcement profession” to “serve as a blueprint” for other agencies to follow.
The rules for entering the award process say the service’s police chief must sign the application form. A project synopsis and a detailed project document must also be included for consideration by a panel of judges, most of whom are police chiefs.
One of the key areas the judges consider is “analysis techniques,” which includes charting and evaluating the project’s process.
Sources have told The Spectator that ACTION officers felt pressure from their leaders to issue lots of tickets and that ticket counts have been a measurement of their success as individual officers and the team in general.
Hamilton police say the ACTION strategy also includes the social navigator program connecting high-needs individuals and repeat offenders with social agencies and the bail compliance unit that proactively monitors suspects.
In 2014, Hamilton police shared the Webber Seavey Award with the Milwaukee Police Department for a program that fosters conversations between students and police and the Rialto Police Department in California for its body-worn camera program.
Other nominees came from across the United States and Canada and as far away as New Zealand.
This was not the first time Hamilton has won the Webber Seavey Award. In 1997 it competed against 197 other agencies around the world to take the honour for the work of its victim services branch.
Source: The Hamilton Spectator