When Devon Clunis applied to be a Winnipeg cop in 1987, his main aim was to crack the stereotype that police cruisers’ backseats are reserved for Blacks. He also thought the job would help him become a role model for his young nephews.
Clunis was thrilled to be accepted, but never in his wildest dreams did the Jamaican-born expect to rise to the top of the service and make history as Canada’s first Black police chief.
“I applied to become a police officer simply because I wanted to make a difference,” said Clunis who migrated from Jamaica at age 12. “I am passionate about the City of Winnipeg and over the course of my career, I have been given great opportunities to help lead the organization…I applied for the chief position because I thought it was really important that the person taking over should have a great understanding of our organization and the city instead of just simply wanting to be chief…Every position for which I have applied was done simply because I felt there was a need to serve the organization and our citizens.”
Winnipeg’s chief administrative officer, Phil Sheegl, said Clunis emerged as the city 17th police chief after a nation-wide search, comprehensive screening and thorough interview process.
“He’s a person of strong leadership credentials, great dedication to building a very strong team and he has a real love for the city,” said Sheegl. “I know that his vision, experience, relationship-building skills and strategic thinking will enable the service to help make Winnipeg an even better place to live.”
Mayor Sam Katz said Clunis has shown uncompromising character as a member of the Winnipeg Police Service.
“I welcome his appointment to this very important role,” he added.
Clunis, 48, has served in all areas of the service, including uniform patrol, traffic, plainclothes investigation, community relations, organizational development and city-wide operational command. As superintendent, he’s currently overseeing the service’s development support branch that encompasses four divisions.
The new chief, who will be sworn in before year end, assumes the high-ranking role at a time when his service is undergoing a city-ordered budget review, police face extraordinary civilian oversight and Winnipeg leads all Canadian cities with the highest homicide rate for the fifth straight year.
Afro-Caribbean Association of Manitoba president, Jim Gunnoiki, is confident that Clunis will do a good job.
“He’s community-oriented, very experienced and qualified for the role,” Gunnoiki told Share. “I have no doubt that he and his team will be successful in effectively policing the city and building new relationships.”
Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) founding president, David Mitchell, welcomed the appointment.
“In the 20-year history of ABLE, I have seen significant change as Black officers attain leadership positions in law enforcement agencies,” said Mitchell, the regional director in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. “It is truly inspirational to see that the office of Chief of Police in this country is beginning to be reflective of the diversity that makes up Canada. While we are delighted and inspired by Devon’s achievement, we continue to monitor the glacial pace of progress that Black women in law enforcement appear to be making in municipal, provincial and federal agencies.”
Clunis, who holds a degree in Divinity, has been the service’s chaplain for the past 14 years. He is completing studies at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels.
BY RON FANFAIR