A former senior Toronto police officer is set to join Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), which has the statutory mandate to conduct independent investigations to determine whether a criminal offence took place in incidents involving members of the country’s security organizations.
Dave McLeod, who retired last Friday after 35 years with the Toronto Police Service, will take up the organization’s newly-created role of Inspector of Investigations & Intelligence on October 1. He signed a one-year contract.
Migrating to Canada in 1975 after spending the first 22 years in his native Jamaica, McLeod is looking forward to the new challenge.
“The government of Jamaica did a good turn for me when I was 12 years old in giving me a scholarship for my education,” he said. “This is an opportunity for me to assist in what I see is a very needed service.”
INDECOM has offices in Montego Bay, Mandeville and Kingston, where McLeod will be based. He will train investigators, review completed investigations as part of the organization’s quality control process to ensure cases are adequately prepared for court prosecutions and help review INDECOM’s policies and procedures.
Jamaicans, particularly those in inner cities, have been subjected to excessive use of force and questionable police shootings over the years. In 2007, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) anti-corruption branch was set up and, three years later, INDECOM was established.
“It’s a daunting task when you consider that there are approximately 250 fatal police shootings in Jamaica a year and about 100 non-fatal and that is not in any way touching the conduct portion of things,” said McLeod. “I am a strong believer in independent oversight of law enforcement. In the case of Jamaica and its reputation, not all of which is deserved, if there is going to be a turnaround in lack of trust, then there has to be a credible organization that provides police oversight. I think I have the experience and cultural knowledge to be able to assist in that regard. My mantra over the years has always been, ‘Who is watching the watcher’?”
McLeod is amply prepared for his new assignment as he’s leaving the Service as unit commander of Professional Standards, which is charged with the responsibility of promoting and supporting professionalism throughout the organization, which includes the practices, conduct, appearance, ethics and integrity of its members to strengthen public confidence and co-operation within the community.
He spent nearly six years with the unit as a Staff Sergeant, Duty Inspector and unit commander.
“My interest in the INDECOM position is a sort of an extension of my functions in Professional Standards in terms of governance and the independent oversight of police,” said McLeod, who co-founded the Toronto Police Community Cricket Club. “Understanding how the community sees the police and how the police see the community and the correlation between the two is absolutely necessary for the functioning of police and policing to be done effectively.”
Promoted to the rank of Inspector in 2003, McLeod served as Uniform Operations and Marine Unit commander and head of the Urban Organized Crime Unit, established as part of the Service’s strategy to combat escalating gun and gang violence.
Eight years ago, he was seconded as an intelligence liaison officer/advisor to the JCF for a six-month period.
A member of the Association of Black Law Enforcers, McLeod said he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Service.
“I have benefitted from the experiences of active and retired officers and I felt very fortunate to be able to serve in the organization,” he said. “One of the things I am extremely happy about is that I was part of the Police & Community Engagement Review.”
In March 2012, Chief Bill Blair directed a review of community engagement, particularly surrounding the information that is collected by police about community members they come in contact with on the job.
Blair thanked McLeod for his service and wished him well in his new endeavour.
“One of the things that really sticks out in my mind about the huge contributions that Dave has made to this organization centred around a series of events and discussions that took place in 2003 and 2004 in this organization,” said Blair.
Following the highly publicized series on racial profiling 12 years ago by the Toronto Star, some police leaders at the time refused to fully accept that some officers engaged in racial profiling.
The four senior Black officers at the time – deputy chief Peter Sloly and the now retired Keith Forde, Karl Davis and McLeod – and 38 other Black officers held a meeting to discuss what it was like to be a Black member of the organization facing racial profiling allegations. Their message was taken back to then chief Julian Fantino and the senior command.
“In coming forward as they did at that time, they demonstrated both courage and leadership because it wasn’t easy,” said Blair. “They challenged this organization to do better and gave us a pretty good idea of how we could be better and the type of changes we had to make within our own culture and our own structure on how we could create a more competent police service. I found that courage and leadership that Dave and his colleagues showed at that time and since that time to be an inspiration.”
A graduate of St. Andrew Technical High School, McLeod worked with the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation as a cameraman, lighting director and technical producer for four years and taught Spanish on the Education Broadcasting Network, which is designed to complement teaching formats administered to students in the classroom.
He was also a freelance sports writer for the Jamaica Gleaner North American edition.