Peter Sloly, a former deputy police chief in Toronto, will be Ottawa’s new chief of police — and the first black person to lead the Ottawa Police Service.
Born in Jamaica, Sloly served with Toronto police for 27 years before resigning in 2016. After his resignation he was hired as a national security consultant for Deloitte.
Sloly gained a reputation in Toronto for his commitment to the black community and black issues, according Alok Mukherjee, the former head of that city’s police services board.
Mukherjee has known Sloly for nearly 15 years, and told CBC News Sunday that Toronto’s loss is Ottawa’s gain.
“For me, it is a lifelong regret he didn’t get chosen as [Toronto’s] chief of police,” Mukherjee said.
Will be ‘innovative’
Sloly arrives at a tumultuous time for the Ottawa Police Service, which is struggling with low morale, budget constraints and a strained relationship with both the police union and the city’s racialized communities.
Mukherjee said Sloly has valuable experience that will help the force deal with its challenges — for instance, fighting internally while with Toronto police to end the practice of random stops, or carding, which disproportionately affects people of colour.
He also credited Sloly with bringing in experts to train officers to recognize unconscious bias, and said the former deputy chief believes in bringing officers from different units together in special teams to solve problems.
Mukherjee said he believed Sloly, who has a masters degree in business administration, will also be budget conscious in his new role as Ottawa’s police chief.
“He was not an officer who just asked for more resources,” Mukherjee said. “He was more interested in finding alternative innovative ways of doing business.”
More than just ‘window dressing’?
Ewart Walters, a member of local advocacy group Black Agenda Noir, says the hiring of a black police chief is significant because of the major controversies affecting the force in recent years that have involved race.
Walters cited the strip search of a black woman in the cell block in 2008 and the 2016 arrest that led to the death of Abdirahman Abdi as examples.
Walters said Sloly may have a good reputation, but he has to prove to citizens and other officers that he’s more than “window dressing.”
“He’s a person of colour, but is he also a person of the right mind with the right approach for the community and for police work?” Walters asked.
“We get the impression that he is that kind of person … from what we know of him, we expect good things.”
Sloly also inherits a rocky relationship with the local police union, but the president of the Ottawa Police Association, Matt Skof, said he’s keeping an open mind.
Skof was charged with obstruction of justice by the Ontario Provincial Police after Sloly’s predecessor, Charles Bordeleau, asked for an investigation into recordings of Skof making allegations against former police board chairperson Coun. Eli El-Chantiry.
Bordeleau retired as chief in May.
Skof said it’s not uncommon to have new blood brought in to lead a police force, but he finds it unusual that he still hasn’t had a conversation with the new chief.
“There were several individuals who reached out to myself as the head of the association and representing the membership,” he said. “I’ve had several conversations. One was not with Mr. Sloly though.”
Resigned after controversial speech
Sloly resigned suddenly from the Toronto Police Service in November 2016, weeks after making a speech that sparked formal complaints from that city’s police union.
In it, Sloly described a lack of public trust in the police, and criticized the force’s ballooning billion-dollar budget. The comments came one year after he was passed over for the Toronto force’s top job.
In an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning at the time, Sloly said he left to take up other opportunities.
“I’m still in love with policing,” he said at the time. “Mostly, I’m really in love — passionately in love — with public service.”
Before becoming a police officer, Sloly played soccer for Canada’s U-20 team.