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Kai Lu leaving role as Cobourg Police Service’s chief of police

Cobourg's chief of police is leaving the service. After seven years of serving the community - police chief Kai Liu is moving on to another opportunity in northern Ontario. Katrina Squazzin sat down with the outgoing chief to reflect on his time in Cobourg.

After nearly seven years in the role, Kai Lu is stepping down as Cobourg Police Service’s chief of police.

On Friday, the service announced Liu will be leaving the service on Sept. 1 and taking on a new appointment as chief of police for another service “three times larger than Cobourg’s.” The Cobourg service serves a town of nearly 20,000.

On Monday, the town announced Liu is retiring from municipal policing to lead Ontario’s First Nations policing as Chief of Police with the Treaty Three Police Service based in Kenora, Ont.

“This new opportunity is full circle for me,” he said. “Early in my career with the Ottawa Police Service, I worked closely with Indigenous peoples and found the job to be quite rewarding. I am looking forward to again, engaging and building relationships with the indigenous communities within the Treaty Three Police Service.”

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Liu was hired for the Cobourg top role in September 2012, having previously served more than two decades as a police officer with the Ottawa Police Service and then four years as chief of police for the Town of Gananoque from August 2008 to September 2012, becoming the first visible minority police chief in Ontario.

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“It has been an honour and privilege to lead the members and serve this community the last seven years,” he stated. “I am most proud of our members who, regardless of the challenges faced the shift before, returned the next day determined to make a positive difference in the Town of Cobourg and the people they meet.”

Cobourg Police Services Board (CPSB) member and town mayor John Henderson said Liu worked collaboratively with all past and current mayors and council members.

“I want to personally thank Chief Liu for his demonstrated leadership and contribution to the Town of Cobourg,” he said.

“Throughout his tenure, he has continually worked with the CPSB to improve the lives of those who live, work and play in our community. He has brought to our community big city policing techniques while maintaining the intimacy of a smaller community.

“His strong business acumen and innovative thinking has brought financial success and stability to the Cobourg Police Service. Chief Liu’s experience makes him a positive asset to any community. I am saddened that Chief Liu has decided to retire from the Cobourg Police Service but wish him well in his future endeavors. On behalf of council, I thank Chief Liu for his dedicated public service to our community.”

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Board chairman Dean Pepper says Liu leaves a “long, impressive list of accomplishments.”

“On behalf of the board, I want to express our unanimous appreciation to Chief Liu’s unwavering dedication to the safety and security of our community,” he said. “When he was recruited as chief seven years ago, he was given a clear mandate by the board to modernize our service with a strong emphasis on community-based policing and community engagement. I am very proud to say, he has accomplished this.

“Chief Liu’s experience makes him a positive asset to any community,” said Pepper. “I am saddened that Chief Liu has decided to retire from the Cobourg Police Service but wish him well in his future endeavors. On behalf of council, I thank Chief Liu for his dedicated public service to our community.”

The board outlined some of Liu’s accomplishments as chief:

  • Presented seven police budgets with each annual budget increase being well under the cost of living.
  • Systematically reduced the police portion of the town’s total annual budget.
  • Placed the service on the forefront of tiered policing with increased use of non-sworn members.
  • With funding from the Ministry of Children and Youth Service, implemented the region’s only year-round youth employment program called Youth in Policing Initiative. This program has employed over 70 Northumberland students since its inception.
  • In 2012, inherited an auxiliary officer program with two officers and today the service has 19 auxiliary officers who collectively volunteer thousands of community service hours.
  • Positioned the Corporate Services Unit in the very envious position as one of Canada’s largest third-party criminal records check supplier.
  • Using revenue generated by corporate services, the CPSB invested $2 million dollars into building Venture 13, Cobourg’s first business incubator and innovation centre.
  • Removed the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace by encouraging and supporting officers to seek assistance with their mental health when required. The number of officers at CPS seeking help is a testament of this support.
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The board says after a seven-month selection process, Deputy Chief Paul VandeGraaf will become chief designate effective July 26, and will be sworn in as the 13th chief of police in the 159-year history of the Cobourg Police Service at a date yet to be announced.

“The appointment of Chief of Police Designate Paul VandeGraaf speaks to the strong succession plan the service had in place,” said Pepper.

“The board is proud that Paul accepted the challenge to lead the service and we’re confident he will ensure we meet our goals in protecting and serving the community with quality policing. Paul has proven over time that he has a clear understanding of our vision and approaches every situation with the service’s mission in mind.

“The board has absolute confidence Chief of Police Designate VandeGraaf will continue to take our service to the next level.”

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VandeGraaf’s 28 years in policing spans Belleville and Cobourg.

“I am eager and excited to support the vision and bringing it to life in everything we do. The energy and collaboration from all members and volunteers of the Cobourg Police Service and Cobourg Police Services Board will be key to ensuring we continue to provide responsive, innovative and quality policing services. I look forward to continually demonstrating to our community the great work that comes out of this service,” Chief of Police Designate Paul VandeGraaf.

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Liu says he has strong confidence in VandeGraaf and the force going forward. VandeGraaf is also a member of the DBIA, YMCA board of directors, Cobourg Rotary Club and with his wife Cathy, was a past campaign chair of the YMCA Strong Communities campaign.

Chief of Police Designate Paul VandeGraaf
Chief of Police Designate Paul VandeGraaf Cobourg Police Service

“Under the new leadership I am confident our members will be well-supported and will continue to proudly serve our community,” he said. “The Cobourg Police Service has a very bright future and its members are in great hands.

“Though it is sad to say goodbye, I am ready to begin the next chapter in my career.”

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