Community activist Dudley Laws joined Jamaican nationals in the Greater Toronto Area in paying glowing tribute last Friday night to Peter Sloly for his meteoric rise to deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service.
A critic of the service for many years, Laws told Sloly that the community will be looking to him for leadership as the service seeks to build healthy relationships with the communities it serves.
The 43-year-old Sloly, who came to Canada from Jamaica at the age of nine, was promoted last September. He is the youngest officer to hold the organization’s second highest rank and he joins Barbadian-born Keith Forde who made history in August 2005 by becoming the service’s first Black deputy chief.
“We view your promotion as a progressive step,” Laws told Sloly at the community reception at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) centre. “We have come a long way and I am pleased that someone of your calibre has been appointed to this position. This is a positive change in the police service since there has been a long history of negative policing and police-community relations.
“We know that history and we know there must be change. Your appointment points in the right direction. What I am asking you is to ensure that the relationship between the community and the police improves. There is more to solid police-community relations than officers riding or driving through neighbourhoods on bikes or in squad cars. We will be watching you and if you slip, we will hold your feet to the fire. We are, however, confident that you will help create the change that is badly needed.”
Forde and several frontline officers, including 13 Division Unit Commander, Staff Inspector David McLeod who is the second highest-ranking Jamaican-born officer in the service, 31 Division Inspector Nicolas Memme and Sergeant Terry James attended the community reception.
Forde made it clear that he expects Sloly to become the service’s first Black police chief. He also urged the community to support the young officer and understand that he would not be able to fulfill every request to make appearances at community events.
“There is one Peter Sloly and he could be working between 14-16 hours a day,” said Forde. “He also has a young family to share his time with, so it’s almost impossible for him to fulfill all of the obligations of this community. At times, he will have to say no. If we want to see Peter complete his journey, we have to support him.”
JCA president Audrey Campbell told Sloly “you have made your mark” and Jamaica’s Consul in Toronto Nigel Smith said Sloly represents the best of Caribbean people.
Kwesi Johnson, who is a Dean’s List graduate, thanked Sloly for writing a letter of recommendation that enabled him to enter Ryerson University, and also for being a shining role model while Jamaica-Canada Diaspora Foundation president Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams said Sloly’s appointment is a milestone for him and the Jamaican community.
“We are happy to say you are one of us and you belong to us,” she said. “You have set a high standard for us and the bar has been raised. We are proud of you and we will stand with you as you go forward.”
York West Member of Parliament Judy Sgro presented a scroll to Sloly with a message penned by federal Liberal party leader, Michael Ignatieff.
“Peter Sloly is to be held in high esteem for his hard work and dedication. He has taken down many barriers and opened many doors for young people in our community. He has been a mentor and an example to emulate…”
Sloly, who in 2001 became the first and only senior Toronto police officer to take part in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, thanked those who paid tribute to him, the event organizers and family members that included his Turkish-born wife Leyla and their three-year-old daughter Elif-Su Jasmine, and his parents Michael and Authurine.
“This has been the best three hours of my life,” he declared in his acceptance remarks.
Born on the same day – August 5, 1966 – that the late Harry Jerome won the 100-metre dash at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, Sloly was an avid soccer player, representing the defunct Toronto Blizzard and Canada at the Under-20 World Cup in the Soviet Union in 1985 before becoming a police officer three years later.
He heads up the service’s Executive Command which has a budget of approximately $31 million and comprises 12 business units.