An RCMP veteran from Manitoba has been selected as Thunder Bay’s new police chief, the city’s police board announced Tuesday, months ahead of schedule and amid an overhaul of leadership for the troubled force.
Chief Superintendent Darcy Fleury, an RCMP district commander in Edmonton and a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation, will take the reins next month and says he is looking forward to a new start for the city and service.
“I think going in there fresh is going to give us, the organization and the city a fresh set of eyes to really see what can be changed quickly. What are some of the things that are going to need to be improved on and some of the more bigger long-term goals?”
The search for the new leader began last summer after former police chief Sylvie Hauth announced her retirement. She left her job this past January, weeks before she was to appear as the subject of a misconduct hearing for charges under the Police Services Act.
The misconduct was alleged after a flurry of complaints against the service and board that began in 2021. They included human-rights complaints and investigations of senior members of the service and board, for allegations ranging from harassment and discrimination to criminal corruption and collusion. In 2018, Ontario’s independent police watchdog concluded that nine sudden-death cases involving Indigenous victims were tainted by systemic racism and neglect. Those cases are still not resolved.
Mayor Ken Boshcoff, who sits on the police board, said Tuesday the external pick to lead the force out of troubled waters was unanimous.
“A lot of work has been done. So really now it’s a matter of ensuring that the public understands that and the interest groups who are directly affected also know that the City of Thunder Bay and its police force is sincere.”
Chief Supt. Fleury, who lives outside of Edmonton and will be relocating to Thunder Bay with his wife, will start a one-month transition period with acting Chief Dan Taddeo, and will be sworn in on May 15 in a change-of-command ceremony. Chief Taddeo told media he will be retiring after that.
The new chief’s first priorities include community engagement and an internal assessment of what’s been happening within the ranks of the service, he said in an interview.
“I think that’s going to be a big challenge, a piece that has to go forward,” the chief-designate said.
He said reshaping the organization will involve creating a learning environment so that officers know their roles, how to be leaders, and how to interact properly with those they serve.
Raised in Manitoba, the new chief has worked in the Northwest Territories, Alberta and Manitoba, and brings extensive experience in investigative, operational and administrative policing, including leadership at senior and executive levels, a statement from the board says.
Chief Supt. Fleury said he’s had success in gaining trust and support from the First Nations he’s worked with over the years by engaging communities “at all levels, at all times” and plans to spend time on the road hearing from those affected by the service in Thunder Bay.
“I think it’s important that everybody has an opportunity to be heard as far as the policing priorities, and that we set them according to what the people want.”
The chief-designate will join a new board that remains under the authority of a province-appointed administrator, Ontario lawyer Malcolm Mercer, whose term was recently extended another year to oversee the transition of the new chief and board.
Mr. Mercer was appointed last spring after the collapse of the previous board, which fell into a state of emergency for its lack of oversight and failure to make good on recommendations from a report by retired senator Murray Sinclair for the Ontario Civilian Police Commission in 2018. Another report, called Broken Trust, by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, also delivered recommendations meant to pull the service out of the clutches of systemic racism, particularly as it related to Indigenous people and their deaths.
Chief Supt. Fleury said he will seek an update on the outstanding death investigations.
Last year, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, an umbrella group representing 49 First Nations in the region, called for the Thunder Bay Police Service to be disbanded.
Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum said in a statement that she looks forward to sitting down with the new chief and is hopeful things will improve. “We trust that the new chief is committed to developing good relationships with the First Nations peoples of Thunder Bay,” she said.