By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
There is an ever-increasing sense that the next chief of the Toronto Police Service should be a person of colour. But not just any person of colour.
The prevailing wisdom by many who are connected and tuned in to the community and especially the police community-relationship is that the wise choice is Jamaican-born Deputy Chief Peter Sloly.
There are a number of reasons for this. Sloly has experience in and knows the community; he is known for his extensive civic leadership role outside of policing, especially working with youth; (he has also had a leadership role with the service’s Youth In Policing Initiative-YIPI); he is a long-time supporter of various community/police initiatives; he has led police reforms on carding and racial profiling (led on the PACER report); his contributions to the community have been recognized with a number of awards including the Harry Jerome and Bob Marley Awards and, internationally, he belongs to several police organizations and has spoken all over the world on numerous police issues.
He was also seconded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo as a Command Staff Officer and Commander of the Canadian Contingent.
Sloly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from McMaster University and a Master’s in Business Administration from York University’s Schulich School of Business. He also has a Criminal Justice Certificate from the University of Virginia, Incident Command System Certification from the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the Major City Chief’s Police Executive Development Program and the University of Toronto’s Rotman Police Executive Leadership Program.
Undoubtedly, he is highly qualified for the job.
Another possible candidate is Deputy Chief Mark Saunders. Saunders is also a Jamaican and one of the three Black deputy chiefs appointed by the board under Chief Bill Blair’s leadership.
Saunders is not well known in the community. In fact, although he has been with the service for decades he only came to the attention of many of us after he was named deputy chief.
No one has anything bad to say about Saunders. He seems to be well liked and respected within the service. It is just that we do not know him.
Sloly’s supporters are concerned that there might be a move afoot to block his candidacy for the top job. They believe it is because the changes Sloly wants to make (or is expected to make) in the area of community policing, carding and other irritating issues for the community do not sit well with some of the hardliners on the force who like things just the way they are. So, having anyone else but Sloly would suit them very well.
I also understand that there is a sense that the police union leadership would not want to work with Sloly. So, what else is new? There is a long history of union heads and police chiefs not getting along. It is par for the course. Blair and former union boss, Dave Wilson, are said to have hated each other, they couldn’t stand to be in the same room. Craig Bromell and ex-chief David Boothby (and, later, Julian Fantino) also had serious issues between them. In any case, the union’s leader shouldn’t determine who the next chief is.
And, where does Mayor John Tory stand in all of this? With him taking a seat on the Toronto Police Services Board, as is his right as mayor, he is said to have the support of at least four of the seven board members whose votes could determine who gets the job or if Blair is asked to stay on for another year.
There are people who are concerned that Tory might not want to support Sloly for the job but he denies this. In a telephone conversation, the mayor told me that he would do his due diligence as is expected of him as a member of the board in choosing a chief and assured me that he has not discussed the possible candidates with anyone.
“I don’t even know who the candidates are yet,” he said.
But, with the support he has on the board, which will choose the new chief, probably in a matter of weeks, the mayor’s views will be very important.
Tory needs to understand – and I think he does – that we have waited a long time to see the police service move away from its old, stuck-in-the-mud way of dealing with minorities and especially members of the Black community. Until Blair became chief and started pushing for change, we never expected it. Now that we are so close to seeing those dreams realized, people are on edge; they are nervous; they want to know what is going on and are fearful that a new chief who does not understand or support the work Blair has tried to do will take the service back to its old ways. We can’t allow that to happen.
A lot of people in our community supported Tory for mayor, many of the same people who want to see Sloly as the next chief of police. They are looking to Tory to help make this happen.
I give Blair a lot of credit for the bold moves he has made as chief. No other chief in the history of the service has ever come close. He did tell me once when he just got the job that I would be pleased with what he plans to do and I am. He has been responsible for elevating a lot of Black and other minority officers in the service. And he has been trying to work through some of the issues many in our community find so irritating. I would hate to see Blair’s impressive legacy reversed.
As for Sloly, even former chief, Fantino, once told me that he could see Sloly one day becoming chief.
I have observed the evolution of this service for more than 40 years and I can say without a doubt that it is light years away from where it used to be.
However, it isn’t nearly where it could and should be. That is why the next chief must be someone who we can trust to continue the work Blair and others under his command have been doing; someone who understands the needs and demands of modern-day policing in a city as diverse as Toronto and someone who has lived that reality.
That is why, with all due respect to the other candidates, I really can’t see anyone else fitting that description than Deputy Chief Peter Sloly.