Deputy Chief Peter Sloly steps down from Toronto police following criticism of force

Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly speaks to the media on Jan. 27, 2016.
Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly speaks to the media on Jan. 27, 2016. Craig Wadman/Global News

TORONTO — Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, who recently stirred controversy by suggesting Toronto police had lost the public’s trust, resigned Wednesday in a move that strips the force of a leading voice for change.

Sloly was with Toronto police for 27 years, and was shortlisted as a candidate to replace former chief Bill Blair last April. That position went instead to Chief Mark Saunders, widely seen as the establishment choice.

Speaking to reporters, Sloly, 49, acknowledged some unspecified “bumps in the road” during his career but denied he was pushed out.

“I’m leaving on my own terms” and with no regrets, Sloly said.

The departing number-two cop said he was quitting to pursue a “huge number” of opportunities, but suggested he first began considering resigning after Saunders’ appointment.

“I didn’t want to make it in a knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t want to leave the service under-supported at a time of critical transition,” Sloly said.

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He said he has refused offers from other police services, and isn’t rushing to return to law enforcement. Sloly said he has no job lined up and is looking forward to more family time.

Sloly’s resignation is effective immediately and comes well before his contract expires at the end of next year.

READ MORE: Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly ‘surprised’ by controversy around police force comments

In comments last month, Sloly said the legitimacy and public trust of policing in Toronto — as elsewhere in North America — was at a “low point” and approaching crisis.

He also touched what is effectively a third rail in city politics — the police budget — by saying a better embrace of technology would let the force operate with hundreds of fewer officers and shave tens of millions from its billion-dollar total.

That sparked critics to accuse Sloly of speaking out of line, with the Toronto Police Association union calling for Sloly to be investigated for insubordination.

Sloly on Wednesday stood by his remarks, saying they weren’t controversial and only became so due to “editorializing” by critics at a time of city budget talks.

READ MORE: Mayor agrees with deputy police chief that changes needed for police force

Union head Mike McCormack welcomed Sloly’s exit, calling it “the right decision.”

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McCormack said he didn’t see the retirement decision as connected to Sloly’s recent criticism, but said they didn’t help reform efforts.

“I don’t think Peter’s comments had anything to do with the nature of moving the agenda forward.”

John Sewell, a former Toronto mayor who runs a citizens’ group critical of police operations, said Sloly was just the kind of “progressive” cop the force needs to modernize itself and be better held in check.

“This is very disappointing… He’s exactly the kind of person we should be encouraging in policing, instead it looks like we’ve pushed him out,” said Sewell, head of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.

READ MORE: Deputy Chief Peter Sloly on leave after criticizing police force

Sewell said the uproar over Sloly’s comments — which were echoed in a consultants’ report and backed by Tory — may deter others from taking up the reform mantle.

“I can’t see anybody wanting to do it. That’s the problem,” said Sewell. He called it discouraging that, in his view, the police board didn’t stand up and defend Sloly during the outcry over his remarks.

Mayor John Tory, Saunders and police board chair Andy Pringle separately thanked Sloly for his years of service.

Tory said he didn’t think Sloly’s decision was prompted by the recent controversy.

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“The comments don’t have any relevance to this at all,” Tory said.

With files from David Shum.