#macsecurity | #operatingsystem | McMaster Students Union ‘concerned’ 30 per cent of university’s security are former police


McMaster University’s students union (MSU) says it is “concerned” to learn that nearly 30 per cent of the school’s security staff are retired police officers.

Eight of the 27 people employed by McMaster Security Services are former police officers.

The security division at McMaster has come under fire recently after the union voted in favour of a motion to oust department director and former Hamilton police chief Glenn De Caire as well as disband its special constable program.

The pleas from the university’s governing body — which says the police presence on campus makes students feel less safe — come amid widespread outcry in Canada and the U.S. to defund police services.

Last week, the board representing Hamilton public schools voted to terminate its controversial 25-year police liaison program. In early June, Ryerson University axed its special constable program with Toronto police just weeks before it was slated to begin.

The department

McMaster’s 27-person security department is comprised of four branches: administration (3), supervisors (4), special constables (19) and dispatchers (1).

Nearly all of the division’s seven senior staff — administration and supervisors — are former police.

Four were once employed by Hamilton Police Services. One was employed by the Toronto Police Service. A sixth supervisor is married to a current Hamilton police staff sergeant.

The security department is headed by De Caire, who took the role at McMaster upon retiring from the service in 2016. His salary of more than $169,000 per year is the second largest among security directors at Ontario universities.

At least six of the former police officers now employed with Mac security made between $111,000 and $169,000 in 2020, according to Sunshine List data.

Calls for dismissal

Twice in the past four years the MSU has passed unanimous motions calling for De Caire’s dismissal.

“It is concerning to learn that McMaster has such an integrated working relationship with Hamilton Police Services,” MSU president Giancarlo Da-Ré told The Spectator in an emailed statement.

“Students have felt unsafe and unheard for years and continue to call on the university to end its partnership with (police). Our campus needs a reimagined safety plan effective immediately.”

The most recent motion, passed June 16, further called on the university to disband its special constable program and sever its ties with both Hamilton and Halton police services.

McMaster said in a statement Tuesday that it discussed the motion with Da-Ré ahead of the vote, but has since not “received any further communication” from the MSU concerning its demands.

McMaster did not directly respond when asked whether the administration would consider or address the union’s demands.

“University leaders are committed to making sure the campus community is safe and inclusive,” McMaster spokesperson Wade Hemsworth said in an emailed statement.

Policing equipment

McMaster paid nearly $35,000 to Hamilton police in exchange for 22 pieces of policing equipment for its special constables unit in 2019, according to a service spokesperson.

The equipment runs the gamut from pepper spray and batons, to body armour and handcuff pouches. Also included in the exchange were sunglasses and sunglass cases, bike bags, bike shorts, bike pants and bike jackets, raincoats, summer gloves, hats, footwear and belts.

Police spokesperson Jackie Penman said there were no other records detailing equipment exchanges between the two parties prior to 2019.

However, a report for McMaster’s security department released last year says the school “purchases uniforms and much of its equipment” from Hamilton police, and that the arrangement was established in 2006.

“McMaster is able to make these purchases at a lower cost by taking advantage of the purchasing rates available through the Hamilton Police Service,” Hemsworth said.

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“In addition to equipment the university has also been able to purchase vehicles at the bulk purchasing rate.”

Hemsworth said security services purchases vehicles with the assistance of Hamilton police. The school bought one vehicle in 2019.

Questions posed by The Spectator regarding the cost of the vehicle were not answered.

Their powers

Special constables are sworn peace officers who can possess full municipal police powers within a given territory, like university or college campuses.

According to the Police Services Act, special constables can detain, arrest and use force in situations where deemed appropriate. They are not, however, subject to the police public complaints system nor under the mandate of the Special Investigations Unit.

In 2019, Ontario passed a bill banning special constables and their employers from referring to constables as “police.” The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said special constables using the term had been a “long-standing issue” for provincial police leaders.

There are currently 19 special constables employed at McMaster, three of whom are former police officers. More than 60 per cent of the special constables De Caire inherited in 2016 — 11 of 18 — are no longer with the department.

Training

Special constables at McMaster can be hired with zero to three years of prior experience and receive annual training from Hamilton police.

According to a 2013 report published by the Ontario Association of College and University Security Administration (OACUSA), McMaster is the only school in Ontario that educates its special constables in all eight facets of use of force training. The training covers soft and hard impact weapons, soft and hard physical control, handcuffing, pepper spray, empty hand techniques and tactical communication.

A spokesperson for OACUSA said the association was unaware of a more recent report.

Moving forward

Despite growing pleas for a remodified campus safety plan, MSU president Da-Ré said McMaster has yet to “respond directly to the concerns students have voiced regarding security services.”

Da-Ré said the union was unaware that McMaster signed a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with the union representing special constables late last year.

The contract, which was ratified by the school’s Board of Governors in October, states that special constables will receive a total compensation of more that $1.3 million in salary per year until 2023. That’s about 37 per cent of McMaster Security Services’ roughly $3.69 million budget in 2020-21.

“Students are right to question how the institution uses its funding,” Da-Ré said, adding the MSU hopes funds saved from De Caire’s dismissal and the special constable unit’s disbandment can be diverted to student wellness and diversity groups.

“The campus community deserves clarity and accountability as to where the University stands.”

Sebastian Bron





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