So long, Sloly

If the ini­tial one- line an­nounce­ment of his de­par­ture was odd, the su­perla­tives in the Po­lice Ser­vices Board’s of­fi­cial state­ment were sar­cas­tic praise for a man who was re­jected for the chief’s job


12 Alok Mukher­jee’s homage to de­parted deputy

The big news came in a rather un­usual form, an email from the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board at 11: 52 am on Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 10, with an allcaps sub­ject line: TORONTO PO­LICE SER­VICES BOARD AN­NOUNCES RES­IG­NA­TION OF DEPUTY CHIEF PETER SLOLY. Pe­riod.

My re­ac­tion was one of sur­prise, but more about the man­ner of the an­nounce­ment than Sloly’s res­ig­na­tion. A fuller press state­ment with the usual words of praise and grat­i­tude ar­rived 17 min­utes later. Af­ter 27 years of “dis­tin­guished ser­vice to the City of Toronto and its res­i­dents,” it read, “Deputy Chief Sloly has elected to move on to ex­plore new ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Board chair Andy Pringle called Sloly “a highly re­spected leader who has been rec­og­nized for his ex­cel­lence within the broader in­ter­na­tional polic­ing com­mu­nity and cel­e­brated by the pub­lic for his ded­i­ca­tion to com­mu­nity polic­ing.” Pringle thanked him “for his out­stand­ing lead­er­ship and ded­i­ca­tion over the course of his dis­tin­guished ca­reer.”

If the ini­tial one- line an­nounce­ment was odd, the su­perla­tives used in the board’s state­ment were de­cid­edly ironic praise for a man who, for all those fine words, was re­jected by the same board for the chief’s job.

I don’t know if this was how the board in­tended to make the an­nounce­ment or if some­one hit the “send” but­ton too soon. Re­gard­less, the first bulletin seemed an ap­pro­pri­ate re­flec­tion of the sit­u­a­tion that’s ex­isted at po­lice head­quar­ters for the last 10 months, since the board chose Mark Saun­ders to suc­ceed Bill Blair as chief.

Sloly’s res­ig­na­tion was not a shock; the only ques­tion was when it would come. Con­trary to ru­mours in cer­tain cir­cles, Sloly was not in­duced to leave. He re­signed be­cause he de­cided that this was the only honourable op­tion left.

There is a new dis­pen­sa­tion at po­lice head­quar­ters. It was clear from early in Saun­ders’s reign that the strat­egy Brian Mul­roney took in deal­ing with his for­mer ri­val Joe Clark, turn­ing Clark into a valu­able as­set, was not the new lead­er­ship’s pre­ferred ap­proach. There was no place for Sloly.

His de­par­ture marks the end of an era in the his­tory of Toronto’s po­lice force.

It be­gan in 2005, when the board chose Blair to suc­ceed Ju­lian Fantino.

Work­ing to­gether, the board and the new chief cre­ated a lead­er­ship team of deputy chiefs, staff su­per­in­ten­dents and su­per­in­ten­dents. In ad­di­tion to Sloly, it in­cluded peo­ple like Kim Derry, Keith Forde, Jane Dick, Tony Warr, Glenn De­Caire, Dar­ren Smith, Jane Wil­cox and David McLeod.

The five years that fol­lowed were marked by hard work, en­ergy, new think­ing and a sense of pur­pose. Th­ese peo­ple brought fresh ideas and drove change, thus restor­ing the pub­lic’s con­fi­dence and mak­ing the chief and board look good.

They pur­sued the goal of build­ing a po­lice ser­vice that truly re­flects the com­mu­nity, and they de­vel­oped new polic­ing strate­gies like the de­mand­fac­tor de­ploy­ment model to match staffing to the de­mands fac­ing each divi­sion and the com­mu­nity mo­bi­liza­tion pro­gram to re­duce crime.

Peo­ple in the group knew the ins and outs of front­line polic­ing and un­der­stood the needs, ex­pec­ta­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences of a chang­ing com­mu­nity – and some among them risked their fu­ture by dar­ing to speak out about racial pro­fil­ing.

Con­trary to Fantino’s de­nial of the prac­tice’s preva­lence, they stated pub­licly that racial pro­fil­ing was hap­pen­ing and that em­ploy­ees of colour had ex­pe­ri­enced it. They had found an ally in Blair.

Well, Sloly was the last of them, as I was the last board mem­ber from that era. And now he, too, is gone.

The knives had been out for a long time. There had been an abun­dance of ru­mours, in­nu­en­dos, as­per­sions on his char­ac­ter even as his bosses moved him up the chain of com­mand. Sloly was a young man in a hurry, mov­ing too fast, were the whis­pered ac­cu­sa­tions, par for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that can be prig­gishly mor­al­iz­ing when it goes af­ter some­one and yet amaz­ingly per­mis­sive to­ward a favourite.

It’s fu­tile to spec­u­late about what could or should have been.

The board and the po­lice lead­er­ship have to de­cide what their pri­or­i­ties are and in what di­rec­tion they plan to take polic­ing.

And they have to be­gin to build a new lead­er­ship that in­spires con­fi­dence in the com­mu­nity, in­stills en­thu­si­asm in the men and women who work for them and in­jects a re­newed sense of cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion.

There are many tal­ented peo­ple in the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice, men and women from di­verse back­grounds who are gifted, highly ed­u­cated, com­mit­ted and ca­pa­ble of out- ofthe­box think­ing.

Let’s hope the chief and the board will iden­tify them and reach out to them to de­velop the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship, as was done in 2005.3 Alok Mukher­jee is for­mer chair of the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board. news@ now­toronto. com | @ now­toronto

The whis­pered ac­cu­sa­tions were par for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that can be prig­gishly mor­al­iz­ing when it goes af­ter some­one.

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