The Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) was established six years after Keith Merith became a police officer in 1986.
The organization has grown over the years and Merith, who was elected the fourth president last Saturday, pledges to raise the profile and relevance.
The York Regional Police Service (YRPS) inspector defeated Ontario Correctional Institute deputy superintendent and longtime ABLE executive member Jennifer Alphonso in a close vote.
“My job is to build on the past, raise the bar and elevate the organization’s status,” said Merith who joined the ABLE in 2003 and was the social committee chair for the past two years. “We have done a lot of good things, including providing financial opportunities for young people interested in law enforcement careers. One of the things I see the ABLE doing is collaborating with other youth-focused organizations in the community to see how we can consolidate our efforts and provide more opportunities for youths to succeed.”
The ABLE has awarded 94 scholarships worth nearly $124,000 since the program was launched 16 years ago. The scholarships are presented in the names of Rose Fortune and Peter Butler III, Canada’s first Black law enforcement officers. Fortune was a self-appointed policewoman in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia in the late 1700s while Butler served for 23 years with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) before retiring in 1936.
A Greater Toronto Area (GTA) youth worker for five years, Merith was a correctional officer at Maplehurst Correctional Complex for two years before joining YRPS.
“I applied to 13 police services and I was finally hired by York after six years trying,” he said.
Beginning his police career as a constable assigned to uniform patrol in 1 District (Newmarket), Merith served in the morality bureau, provincial weapons enforcement unit, 5 District criminal investigations bureau and the training and education division.
As a staff sergeant, he was assigned to 4 District (Vaughan) before being promoted last year to inspector.
Former ABLE presidents Chris Bullen and Roy Smiley – who Merith replaced – are the organization’s vice-president and treasurer respectively while Paulette Joseph is the secretary.
Maplehurst Correctional Complex officer Leighton Hope is the community services issues chair; York Region Transit special constable Shawn Brown heads the social committee; probation and parole officer Andy Shah is the new membership services committee chair; YRPS detective Steve Morrell is the communications officer and correctional officer Kenton Chance is the chair of law enforcement issues.
The ABLE was founded to, among other things, encourage racial harmony and cultural pride in the law enforcement community and the wider society, promote and protect the interests of Blacks and other racial minorities in the profession and work closely with law enforcement agencies to stimulate and facilitate employment equity programs.
Ontario deputy minister Jay Hope, YRPS inspector Chris Bullen, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Lynell Nolan, who is the director of Safety and Security at Ross University School of Veterinary Science in St. Kitts, Tony Weekes, who is a probation officer with the anti-guns and gangs unit, D.J. Marks, who works with a law enforcement supply company in western Canada, retired Toronto Police Service officer Doreen Guy, who now lives in Grenada and David Mitchell – ABLE’s first president who is Mimico’s superintendent and chair of Toronto Community Housing, founded the organization in 1992.