One of Toronto’s highest-profile police leaders – a reformer who spent most of his career trying to improve relations between police and citizens – is leaving the force.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly’s resignation takes effect immediately, the police oversight board said in an announcement at noon on Wednesday. He has been negotiating his departure since October, according to sources with knowledge of police board affairs.
To many within the Toronto Police Service, signs of acrimony have been showing in the top ranks since April, when Chief Mark Saunders was chosen to lead the force instead of Deputy Chief Sloly, 49, long considered a front-runner for the job. In January, the deputy chief gave a speech critical of the force and particularly its ballooning budget, leading to formal complaints from the union that represents police officers.
But he said on Wednesday he leaves on his own terms amid job offers, and that he stayed for nearly a year to help smooth the transition to a new chief.
“I have an international network of police brothers and sisters,” he said. “I have contacts within the private sector. … It’s hard to keep saying no to some of this stuff.”
He is in no rush to join another police force, he said.
“There’s a big, wide world out there.”
The deputy chief’s 27 years at the force involved him in some of the biggest recent battles over policing, from racial profiling to costs, few of which have been resolved. While many said his departure is a loss, others celebrated, including the head of the police union, who said relations between the deputy and the new chief were “not healthy.”
With police facing so many “big issues,” Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said, Deputy Chief Sloly’s presence was a “distraction” and said he was “glad that that’s been put to bed.”
At most large organizations, a competition for the top job is often followed by resignations as talented contenders look elsewhere.
But police sources said there is a perception in the force that the past 10 months were more rancorous than they needed to be, with Deputy Chief Sloly moved to a smaller office and more administrative duties.
Until April, he headed the community-safety unit, which involved delving deep into race relations. One of his long-time projects was a report and a committee on how police interact with citizens, called the Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER).
He told The Globe and Mail in a 2013 interview that as a “brown-skinned kid from Jamaica,” his experiences as a youngster helped him and the force navigate that relationship.
After Chief Saunders was appointed last year, Deputy Chief Sloly was take off PACER and switched from commanding the community-safety unit to operational support, which included overseeing the Toronto Police College, professional standards, communications, court services, parking enforcement and other tasks.
At the same time, he was asked to move to a smaller office next door to his old office. Considering the timing of both changes, many officers believed the deputy chief was being sidelined. It appeared that he and the chief rarely spoke or met, never reconciling after their heated competition for the job, said the police sources, who did not want to be named.
Deputy Chief Sloly’s new command contained important files and should not have been seen as a step down, said a retired police inspector, David McLeod. But the office move was more odd, he said.
“In my opinion and in my experience, a change from one command to another does not usually require a change of physical office,” he said.
Toronto Police Services spokesman Mark Pugash said deputies routinely move offices when their assignments change, and that Deputy Chief Sloly had moved offices when he was assigned to the community safety unit.
As for the claim that the deputy was rarely seen with the chief, Mr. Pugash said he had been in “numerous” meetings with both.
In late January, Chief Saunders said there was no animosity between him and Deputy Chief Sloly.
The deputy chief, who ascended to that rank at just 43, has a master’s degree in business and did a stint peacekeeping in Kosovo and played professional soccer.
Mr. McCormack said the reforms Deputy Chief Sloly advocated, such as policing based on working with members of communities, will continue without him.
“I’m a huge proponent of community-based policing … [but] that was around long before Peter Sloly was around,” he said.
But others in and outside the police force said on Wednesday that Chief Deputy Sloly made a lasting and personal mark on Toronto.
“He brought 21st-century vision to policing,” said Audrey Campbell, who co-chaired the PACER committee with him and said he spent years building trust with the community. “His presence will be missed.”
Former police board chair Alok Mukherjee, who helped promote Deputy Chief Sloly to his rank, said on Wednesday he improved community relations during “a period of crises and demands for change.”
“He was creative, innovative and open to new ideas from around the world,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
Current chair Andy Pringle said the deputy chief leaves “highly respected,” and Mayor John Tory, a sitting member of the board, said he had served with distinction.Report Typo/Error
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