Vancouver's new chief of police says he doesn't foresee any drastic changes to the force and wants to take some time to meet with community leaders and front-line officers.
Adam Palmer, the deputy chief who earlier this week was named to the department's top job, spoke with reporters Friday. He said he will not be sworn in as chief for at least a few weeks.
Deputy Chief Palmer said he believes the department is in strong shape and he'll take some time to assess what changes need to be made.
"I'm not taking over a police department that's in any kind of turmoil or trouble," he said. "I think things are very good. [Outgoing Chief] Jim Chu has been a very good mentor to me, so I'm not planning on any drastic changes. What I want to do is talk to people, get the pulse, get used to sitting in the chair, and then we'll look if we need to make any decisions or make any changes. But right now I like the course we're on."
Deputy Chief Palmer said he has two immediate priorities: First, he wants to get to know community leaders better; second, he wants to spend time with front-line officers.
"Sometimes when you get into executive positions it's very easy to drink filtered water when you get near the top," he said. "And then sometimes you talk to somebody down on the front lines and they'll tell you something completely different."
He said he does not believe there is a disconnect between front-line officers and the executive, but it's important to maintain focus on that relationship.
Deputy Chief Palmer was joined at the news conference by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Chief Chu, Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke and Deputy Chief Doug LePard – the latter was the runner-up for the position of chief.
Mr. Robertson, who is also chair of the police board, said Deputy Chief Palmer has had a storied career and "has demonstrated a level of professionalism and intelligence that will serve our city very well."
"He cares about our city and is certainly committed to making everybody – no matter what neighbourhood they live in, no matter their income, their language, their sexuality, their background – feel safe," the mayor said.
Mr. Robertson also went to great lengths to commend Deputy Chief LePard, calling him "an exceptional member of the force" who has tackled some of the department's most difficult files.
Deputy Chief Palmer said he and Deputy Chief LePard agreed from the beginning that they would support whoever was named chief. He specifically lauded Deputy Chief LePard's work on murdered and missing women – Deputy Chief LePard oversaw a scathing internal review of the force's failed investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton, and issued a public apology on the department's behalf.
Deputy Chief Palmer, 52, said he always dreamed of being a police officer. He joined the force in 1987 and served as a patrol officer until 2000. He has since worked in a variety of roles and most recently led the investigation division, where he was in charge of such units as major crime and organized crime. He also led a review of the department's policing operations, and the force said his research into issues such as deployment, overtime and sharing resources has generated interest from police agencies around the world.
He said he did not seriously consider being chief until after he was named deputy chief in 2010.
Chief Chu announced in January that he would step down; his contract had been set to run until August, 2017. The surprise announcement sparked immediate speculation on what the chief would do next, with a federal election drawing near and the top position with the Toronto Police Service soon to be vacant.
Chief Chu was tight-lipped on his plans Friday, though he said he does not have any desire to move.
"I have not applied for any other policing job," he said. "I love the city of Vancouver. Some of those opportunities arise in other cities and I'm not interested in leaving Vancouver. And then, in terms of what else happens, I'm taking some time off. I want to support the new chief as much as I can. And we'll see how the future unfolds."