By RON FANFAIR
The Toronto Police Service hired its first Black officer – Larry McLarty – five decades ago.
There are now 300 Black officers working in every specialized field and in every rank. And two Deputy Chiefs.
Jamaican-born Peter Sloly has joined Keith Forde (who was born in Barbados). He is the youngest officer to hold the organization’s second highest rank.
Sloly, who was promoted last Thursday after being a Staff Superintendent for the past four years, joined the force in 1988 after pursuing a soccer career that included stints with the national program and the defunct Toronto Blizzard. He represented Canada at the Under-20 World Cup finals in 1985 in the Soviet Union.
“I made up my mind six years into the service that I was going to make policing a full-time career,” said Sloly, who migrated from Jamaica in 1976. “I wanted to reach a point in this organization where I could have an impact and influence at the corporate level.”
Starting as a foot patrol constable attached to 52 Division, Sloly was transferred to 54 Division three months into his new job where he served in the youth bureau, foot patrol and major crimes units.
In 1994, he was reassigned to the police college after suffering a serious back injury while chasing a suspected drug dealer.
“That was a very difficult and challenging period in my life because of health and family issues I faced at the time,” said Sloly, who was born on the same day – August 5, 1966 – that the late Harry Jerome won the 100-metre dash at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
“It was there that I made the decision that I wanted to be a career cop and that I felt I could make major contributions to this organization.”
Sloly gave an early indication that he was a star in the making when he was promoted to Sergeant in 1995, finishing first in the application process that involved nearly 1,100 candidates. He was assigned to 51 Division where he and a few other officers were handpicked by then Staff Inspector Bill Blair (now the Police Chief) to lead the force through a transitional period that included community outreach and policing in the tough Regent Park neighbourhood.
Sloly also met Forde for the first time while he was at that division.
“Keith was the Unit Commander at 11 Division and he and Dave McLeod (who is now a Staff Inspector and Unit Commander at 13 Division) met with me for close to two hours and offered advice,” he recalled. “They, along with Karl Davis (now retired), have always been my mentors and they have instilled in me the value of mentoring.”
Sloly was elevated to Staff Sergeant in 1998 attached to 13 Division and Inspector a year later working out of 31 Division.
“It was while I was at these two divisions that I really solidified my community connections because I was brought into direct contact with the Jamaican business community on Eglinton Ave. West and also with the Jamaican Canadian Association and its dedicated membership and leaders,” said Sloly who was recognized with a Harry Jerome award for Professional Excellence two years ago.
In 2001, Sloly became the first and only senior Toronto police officer to take part in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo. He was promoted to a Command Staff rank and put in charge of coordinating all operational policies and strategic planning for the UN Civilian Force of 10,000 from 52 countries.
He was also selected as the Canadian contingent commander for the UN Mission. It was while on this special exercise that he met his Turkish-born wife, Leyla. The couple married five years ago and they have a three-year-old daughter.
Sloly was promoted to Staff Inspector in 2002 and worked out of 53 Division and headquarters where he was in charge of corporate communications. He was promoted to Superintendent in 2004 and Staff Superintendent a year later and headed the staff planning and community mobilization unit and, later, Operational Services.
“Chief Blair and the Toronto Police Service Board have to be commended for this appointment,” said Forde. “We pride ourselves as a model organization of choice and I think it’s imperative we must lead from the front. To have two visible minorities in command really speaks to that leadership.
“I am thrilled for Peter because he brings youth, energy and a wealth of experience at a time when the service is actively recruiting visible minorities. His presence in the top echelon will serve as a reminder to young people joining the force that they too can aspire to reach a senior rank.”
Said Deputy Minister Jay Hope (on secondment from the Ontario Provincial Police where he is a Deputy Commissioner): “Peter has a strong operational record and an exceptional academic background that will serve this city and law enforcement extremely well. His appointment is fantastic for both corrections and policing.”
Association of Black Law Enforcers president, David Mitchell, said Sloly’s appointment demonstrates the high quality of skills and leadership that are abundant in Toronto’s Black community.
“In addition, Peter is very community minded, family oriented and committed to causes that will improve young people’s lives,” he added. “The potential is certainly there for him to be a police chief because he’s fairly young and well educated.”
Sloly, who replaces the recently retired Jane Dick and will head the Executive Command, graduated from McMaster University with a Sociology degree and York University with a Master’s in Business Administration. He has developed a distinguished professional resume in law enforcement over the last two decades that includes frontline operations, criminal investigations, corporate communications, human resources management, community policing and international peacekeeping.
Toronto Police Service Board chair Alok Mukherjee said Sloly was part of an exceptional pool of candidates dedicated to community policing and the service.
“His personal commitment to justice, safety, community-based policing and bias-free service delivery will help the board and the service to meet the needs and expectations of all Torontonians,” he said.
Blair said he’s looking forward to working with Sloly to continue to build on the service’s efforts that have made Toronto the safest big city in North America.
Former interim Chief of Toronto Police, Mike Boyd – currently the Police Chief in Edmonton, Alberta – is confident that Sloly will make a great deputy. He met Sloly for the first time in 1992 while recruiting administrators for the new police diversity course and was very impressed by the young officer’s presence, equanimity and intellect.
“I am very familiar with Peter and the great strides he has made and I know that he’s got the breadth and depth of policing to function exceedingly well in his new role,” Boyd told Share.