Building trust with communities a top priority, new Toronto police chief says
December 19, 2022 By The Canadian Press
Dec. 19, 2022, Toronto, Ont. – Building trust with communities in Toronto that feel police have failed them will be a top priority for the force, its new chief said Monday after being sworn in.
Myron Demkiw said his biggest tasks as Toronto’s top cop will be working with communities to improve faith in the service, accelerating police reform by implementing recommendations, and working with partner organizations to ensure safety.
“In drawing up priorities, it was very, very clear to me that it’s an important priority as chief of police to improve trust … I deliberately identified it as trust in and within the Toronto Police Service,” Demkiw said at a news conference.
“We are an organization that is made up of community members, we are an organization that is made up of people who have lived experiences … that are reflected in our communities, that are reflected within our service, within our members.”
Demkiw was sworn in as chief of police earlier on Monday during a change-of-command ceremony at Toronto Police Headquarters, where he took over from interim chief James Ramer for a three-year term.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Demkiw, 56, is the right person to be leading the city’s police service because of his decades of experience, leadership and experience with gun violence and community safety.
Demkiw, who has 32 years of experience on the force, was previously its acting deputy chief of the specialized operations command.
His appointment was met with some criticism when it was announced in September, particularly from LGBTQ groups and community members who opposed the appointment because of his involvement in a September 2000 bathhouse raid.
The new chief said Monday that the LGTBQ community’s trust and confidence in the force had been shaken through a number of instances over many years, and he will focus on the entire relationship.
“I was reflecting on the impact that (raid) event had on the community then and the impact that event continues to have … and I recognize and acknowledge that there continues to be trauma and concern, and an expression of anxiety about my appointment,” said Demkiw.
“What I need to do is go into the community where possible to listen, learn and come to understand how to bridge that gap, and I think there is a path.”
Ahead of his appointment, Demkiw began meeting with LGBTQ community leaders who asked him to issue an apology, which he said he is prepared to do but wants to first understand affected communities’ perspectives through engagement and discussions.
“I am absolutely prepared to do an unreserved apology, but now the time is for me to listen and understand what that apology should be,” he said.
A bio provided by the force said Demkiw has been a “key architect” of the service’s renewed approach to dealing with gun and gang violence that “powerfully targets criminal elements, while respecting the communities in which they may be operating.”
Demkiw has served as a senior adviser to the police’s Black Internal Support Network and has contributed to the city’s community safety and well-being plan.
He is also the co-chair of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s counterterrorism and national security committee and is a member of that association’s national working group supporting victims of terrorism and mass violence.
Before his role heading up the specialized command, Demkiw was also a staff superintendent, most recently overseeing professional standards and the Toronto Police College, and before that he was in charge of detective services.
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