Former Toronto deputy police chief Peter Sloly has been named Ottawa’s new top cop.
Diane Deans, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, formally announced on Monday that the board had selected Sloly to serve as Ottawa’s chief of police over the next five years, following a months-long national search.
“What we heard, loud and clear, was that this city needed a chief that would be a trusted partner in our community; a chief that could deliver effective policing services for everyone in our city, a person that could serve, protect and respect all communities, including our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens,” Deans said.
“We had a number of impressive candidates come forward but I’m confident that we got this one right.”
Sloly is expected to take on his new role sometime in October; a specific date has not yet been scheduled.
The 53-year-old served with the Toronto Police Service for 27 years and was viewed as a leading voice for change within the force.
He had been shortlisted as a candidate to replace Toronto police chief Bill Blair but lost the bid to current chief Mark Saunders.
He stepped down from the Toronto police in February 2016, weeks after criticizing the police service in a speech that sparked controversy.
Sloly denied, however, that his resignation was connected to the comments. He said at the time he wasn’t pushed out and that he was leaving on his own terms.
Sloly replaces former Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau, who retired on May 4 after seven years as head of the force.
Deputy police chief Steve Bell has been serving as interim chief since then and will continue to do so until Sloly begins work. The new chief thanked Bell for his “leadership and courage.”
Sloly is not bilingual – something he apologized for on Monday. But he said he takes communication “very seriously” and is “absolutely committed to learning French.”
‘People and partnerships come first’
At city hall on Monday, Sloly fielded questions from media and members of the public about his plans and priorities as chief as he prepares to join a police force that’s dealing with budget and staffing pressures and that has experienced tensions internally and also externally with some communities in recent years.
“The issues facing Ottawa are facing many major cities. This is a challenge,” Sloly said. “I’m confident in my ability to move the needle here.”
In response to a question about race relations specifically, Sloly said “people and partnerships come first.”
Sloly said he believes Ottawa “can and should be the best police service in Canada.”
“All the ingredients are here,” he said. “I’ll do my very best to serve at the very highest level. There’ll be some bumps in the road coming up, no doubt – I don’t expect the honeymoon will last too long.”
City’s first black police chief
Born in Jamaica, Sloly will be Ottawa’s first black police chief. On Monday, he said he’s “proud of all the things that make me who I am,” emphasizing his Jamaican heritage and his Canadian nationality.
“I believe that my lived experience will give me some advantages,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “And I believe that what I’ve gone through, succeeded in and struggled in and occasionally failed in, will allow me to bring a sense of wisdom and compassion to very difficult circumstances.
“But I also believe that the people I see in front of me – whether they be in uniform or from the community – have equally compelling experiences, equally deep insights, an equal commitment to healthy, safe communities. I’ll tap on those folks.”
Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, who has worked to address anti-black racism in Ottawa and co-founded the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, said she feels “optimistic” about Sloly’s appointment and his remarks on Monday.
“I think that having our first new black chief, a member of our community being represented in our policing institution just goes to show that all the efforts and all the work that we’ve been doing to highlight the issues that the black community faces has been taken seriously,” said Ahmed-Omer, who also works with the Federation of Black Canadians.
Sloly applied to be Ottawa’s police chief in 2006
Sloly joined Deloitte Canada in April 2016 and has served as national leader for the firm’s “security and justice” practice since June 2017. On Monday, he said that job has involved working with police agencies and justice ministries across the country.
Despite leaving the Toronto Police Service over three years ago, he said his “passion for policing has remained.” He described leaving the force and moving to the private sector as “one of the most difficult transitions of my life” and said he “never shut the door fully” on returning to police work.
Sloly has never worked for the Ottawa Police Service, but he admitted on Monday that he had thrown his hat in the ring for the top job once before in 2006.
He said he didn’t make the shortlist but claimed he has visited Ottawa almost every year since then.
In a phone interview on Monday, Ottawa Police Association President Matt Skof said he’s not surprised the police services board brought in “somebody from the outside,” given the last chief had been promoted internally.
The union’s first step will be to establish a relationship with Sloly but it will eventually look to the new chief to address ongoing issues with morale, staffing and “a lack of leadership within the executive,” Skof said.
Sloly former peacekeeper, pro soccer player
According to the news release announcing Sloly’s appointment, Ottawa’s new police chief is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and served two tours of duty in the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
The statement notes Sloly has been the recipient of several awards, including the United Nations Peacekeeping Medal, the Canadian Peacekeeping Medal and the Police Exemplary Service Medal and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
He holds a bachelor of arts in sociology and a master’s degree in business administration. Before beginning a career in policing, he was a professional soccer player and played for Canada’s men’s national team.
Sloly is married with two children – a 13-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son. His family will be moving with him to Ottawa, he said on Monday.
In a tweet on Monday morning, Mayor Jim Watson congratulated Sloly on his appointment and welcomed him to the national capital.
“I look forward to working with you and to your many contributions to our community,” the mayor wrote.
In June, the police services board launched a national search for a new police chief and a new chief administrative officer (CAO), who oversees all business and corporate support functions within the service.
On Friday, the board – the civilian body responsible for governing the Ottawa Police Service – announced that acting CAO Jeff Letourneau had been chosen to serve in that role permanently.