As a national team soccer player in the mid-1980s, Toronto Police Service deputy chief Peter Sloly was limited to two universities when the time came for him to choose where he wanted to pursue post-secondary education.
Discouraging players from accepting offers to attend American universities because they wanted them to be close to home, the Canadian Soccer Association created a carded-athlete program that allowed its national team members to attend either McMaster University in Hamilton or Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
For Sloly, who lived in Scarborough at the time, the choice was easy.
“We trained at McMaster back then, so I was familiar with the campus and the surroundings,” he said. “It was also close to home.”
Shortly before completing his undergraduate degree, Sloly suffered a serious back injury and was forced to quit the national team program.
“Looking around for a new job, I applied to the social work department, the fire service and Toronto Police which was the first to get back to me with a job offer,” he said.
Twenty-five years after graduating from McMaster with a sociology degree, the university honoured Sloly with its first Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Community Impact Award that recognizes individuals who have made a positive impact in the community in the last three years, enhancing the quality of life while reflecting McMaster’s values – integrity, quality and teamwork.
Sloly said McMaster prepared him for a successful career in policing.
“Of my first year courses, I found sociology to be very interesting,” he said. “In fact, I have my first-year sociology text book in my office because there are principles and philosophies in it that I can apply. The sociology philosophy forced me as a young man to think about what the role of individuals and groups in society is and how they interact. I still reflect on those early philosophical lessons with the practical application of two and half decades of policing. Not every one of those principles and philosophies held true, but they were at least a starting point for some level of thinking beyond the experience of working on the street.
“In the 1990s, we formally entered into community policing. For me, that was not a hard thing to do because, intellectually, I had been in that space for almost five years. I am a big proponent of community policing in part because that’s all I have known. I wasn’t questioning it as other serving officers coming out of a different era were and being asked to transition. It was a natural process for me and maybe one of the reasons why I have embraced it so much and have produced a lot of good examples of how community policing can work.”
Sloly also graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, the Major City Chief Police Executive program and the University of Toronto Rotman Police Executive leadership program. He earned a Master’s in Business Administration from York University’s Schulich School of Business.
The university’s other inaugural Community Impact Award recipient was South African-born chef and local food movement activist, Joshna Maharaj, who graduated with a religious studies degree in 2000.
She is an assistant director of food services and executive chef at Ryerson University.