By TOM GODFREY
Members of the Black community are among those grieving today for Toronto Police Constable John Zivcic who passed away on Monday in the prime of his life.
All week long saddened Toronto cops – Black, White, young and old – have been praying and paying respect to their colleague as he fought for his life at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
The ”up and coming” officer succumbed to head injuries after his unmarked police car became involved in a collision last weekend in the city’s west end.
St. Michael’s was lined with well-wishers and cruisers as platoons of cops from across the city trekked to Zivcic’s bedside in a show of support for him and his mourning family.
Zivcic, of St. Catharines, was only 34 and comes from a good family. He was popular and well-liked by his colleagues at 22 Division where he spent his six-year career as a traffic officer, who was known for sometimes giving a break to those he pulled over on the road.
The flag at his station, and other buildings in city, is being flown at half-mast as a sign of respect to the officer, who always wanted to be a cop and serve the public.
Zivcic is the most recent Toronto officer to die in the line of duty since January 2011, when Sgt. Ryan Russell was run over by a man operating a stolen snowplow.
The pain of the loss was evident in the face of Deputy Chief Peter Sloly as he broke the news of Zivcic’s death to stunned city residents outside the downtown hospital.
A shakened Sloly was flanked by Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto Police Association, who vowed to help the officer’s family.
Sloly stepped up to the plate and deserves full credit for his capable handling of the unfolding situation during the last few days with Chief Bill Blair out of the country on vacation. It was a tough and emotional job that Sloly conducted with sensitivity by paying attention to the needs of the officers’ family, his grieving colleagues and the public.
The Deputy Chief’s face was stressed and words calculated as he comforted and reassured the mourning public that the city was safe.
“He died in the line of duty doing his job, trying to keep the public safe,” Sloly said.
Sloly’s leadership should help put an end to banter by some on the force who second-guess his abilities by claiming he is a ”book based” cop who does not have enough street experience.
But, the Jamaican-born former professional soccer player is an intelligent man who did not rise to the seventh floor of police headquarters, with an office next to that of Blair, because he could kick a ball.
Sloly is a 25-year cop who has a track record in the community and has shown that he can lead and operate a multi-million dollar department within the force with hundreds of officers working under him.
His resume is long, impressive and cannot be ignored. He is now in charge of Divisional Policing Command which has 4,084 officers, 221 civilian members and a budget of $447 million. His responsibilities include the 17 Police Divisions and the Divisional Police Support Unit, which operates the controversial TAVIS Rapid Response & Community Mobilizations functions.
He was previously in charge of Executive Command, which had over 400 civilian and uniform staff along with an operating budget of more than $31 million.
The Harry Jerome and Bob Marley Day Awards winner is active in the community and sits on a number of boards. He is well known for having played for the Canadian National Soccer team.
He is a member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the FBI National Academy Associates, the TPS Military Veterans Association and the Association of Black Law Enforcement officers.
Sloly also took part in international policing programs including Pearls in Policing, the Lithuania Development Mission and the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo where he was a Command Staff Officer and Commander of the Canadian Contingent.
He has sat on the boards of Spirit of the People, the Black Business & Professional Association’s National Scholarship Foundation, Covenant House, Herb Carnegie Future Aces, Ontario Science Centre and Youth Challenge Fund among others.
For his work, Sloly has been awarded the Member of the Order of Merit – Police Forces, African Canadian Achievement Award, United Nations & Canadian Peacekeeping Medals and is a recipient of the Soccer Hall of Fame’s ”Brian Budd” Award.
The funeral for Zivcic is slated to take place in Toronto on Monday.
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash is underway