Coun. Sam Merulla says paying off-duty police has not been a ‘dependable’ solution

It’s still not clear what the ‘enhanced enforcement’ the city has requested for the Red Hill Valley Parkway will look like. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The City of Hamilton is considering hiring off-duty police officers to provide additional enforcement to help make the Red Hill Valley Parkway safer.

Three weeks after council asked for increased support from Hamilton police to cut down on “speed, aggressive driving and distracted driving” along the deadly expressway, it’s still not clear exactly what enforcement would look like and the police service has remained vague about what it’s willing to agree to.

Hiring off-duty police to patrol the highway would mean the city is carrying the cost of the extra policing and that any officers involved wouldn’t be coming from scheduled police resources.

Education or additional police presence

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the police service said the city’s request was presented to the Police Service’s Board on Feb. 14.

Jackie Penman said police are “committed” to enforcement on both the RHVP and Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

“We are working with the City of Hamilton Public Works/Traffic on enhanced expressway enforcement and what form that additional enforcement, education and presence might look like,” she wrote.

I’m surprised it’s even being proposed.
– Sam Merulla , Ward 4

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said one of the possibilities is paying off-duty police to patrol — though the city hasn’t said how many officers it would be looking for.

Eisenberger also suggested shouldering the extra duty could be split between current police resources and some additional, paid officers.

“We don’t know yet,” he said, adding it’s up not up to the city to direct police how to do their job.

“It’s up to them to operationalize, so they’re going to have to measure what the policing needs are in the community and whether they can afford to divert some or if we need additional, over-time, paid-duty police officers to do this work.”

Tough time finding volunteers

But Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla said paying off-duty police is not an ideal solution.

“In years past when we’ve legislated that, they’ve had a difficult time finding officers to do it so I don’t think it’s a viable option,” he said.

“It’s not very dependable for such a serious initiative. I’m surprised it’s even being proposed.”

Instead, Merulla said he believes police should increase enforcement using their existing “manpower,” at least until other measures such as photo radar —something he’s proposed—come into play.

Is a parked police car enough to slow traffic?

The councillor added he believes the call for increased enforcement could be answered by something as simple as parking a police car out along the busy roadway.

“It doesn’t even need to be manned, the visual presence of police themselves slows people down.”

The big question now is how much upping enforcement will cost the city.

Both Merulla and the mayor said they’ll have to hammer out details with police before finding out.

Regardless of what the police service, decides, Eisenberger said he believes council will stand behind it.

“The request from council is to make it happen, so whatever way the police decide they want to go, I’m sure council will give their support.”

Source: CBC News