Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Chief Demkiw Seeks Understanding

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The Change of Command ceremony, which saw Chief Myron Demkiw take over from Chief James Ramer, took place at Headquarters on December 19, in front of hundreds of community and Service members.

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Read edited version of Chief Myron Demkiw’s address below:

Becoming your Chief of Police is, in many ways, better than a dream come true. Because being your Chief gives me an opportunity to:

  • Serve the communities that I love;
  • Protect the city that I love, have grown up in and raised my family in; and
  • Respect the community members & service members who I have so much love and admiration for.

Today I’d like to tell you about my plan to keep your city, my city, our city, the best and safest place to be. I will share with you:

  • Three of my main priorities
  • Two important lessons I’ve learned; and
  • One promise that I want to make to everyone here today and to every resident of Toronto

I will also address the dedicated and hard-working members of the Toronto Police Service.

 

Two Chiefs laughing
Retired Chief James Ramer (left) and new Chief Myron Demkiw (middle) share a laugh during the change of command ceremonyPhoto: Brent Smyth

 

The City of Toronto, is many things, to many people.

For me:

It’s the best and safest place to be.

It’s the place that I live, work, play, and pray.

It’s the place that I call home, where I got married and raised my family

It’s the place that has given me everything that I have.

Before I get into some details about the future, I’d like to take a few minutes to share my story with you.

My parents immigrated to Canada, from Ukraine. My brothers and I were born in Toronto and we grew up in the Bloor West Village neighbourhood.

On Sunday’s our family would go to church.

Like most young kids, I will confess that I did find myself day dreaming during the sermon –

until I thought of something that I really wanted, and then of course, I would start praying for it.

One of the things I prayed for was to one day become a Toronto Police Officer. And, in 1990, my dream came true.

Fast forward to today. Thanks to the support of many great people, I am deeply honoured to be serving you as the City of Toronto’s 25th Chief of Police.

A role I am truly humbled to hold, an opportunity I am determined to give my all to, every day.

As I look around the room, I see many familiar faces of people who supported me throughout my career and helped prepare me to be your Chief of Police.

I‘ve had the great good fortune to have had opportunities to learn from so many great leaders, including a number of previous Chiefs who are here today, with Chief James Ramer being the most recent.

Chief Ramer, I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to work with you for many years.

I feel particularly blessed to have had your mentorship, leadership, and most of all your friendship.

You have taken our Service to a new level in so many important aspects of policing;

  • from investigations into organized crime,
  • to the way we protect our city from the threat of terrorism and extremism,
  • to the way we address systemic racism,
  • to how we engage with diverse communities.

You have made us better!

Please know that I will continue to build on the incredible work you have done, for our members and our communities, for over four decades!!

On behalf of all of the members of the Toronto Police Service, and as a life-long resident of Toronto I want to say – thank you for your service!

I want to thank His Worship, Mayor Tory, Interim Chair Ainsworth Morgan and the entire Toronto Police Services Board.

I’d also like to thank Mr. Jim Hart, who recently retired as the Chair of the Board.

I am committed to ensuring that the strong and healthy relationship we have with the Board continues to evolve in its positive and progressive trajectory.

The Board plays a critical and necessary role, providing robust governance and oversight of the Service.

I’d also like to express my sincere gratitude to Board Staff, who are led by Mr. Ryan Teschner, the Executive Director and Chief of Staff, for their ongoing support and collaboration in helping the Service be the best it can be.

To all the residents of Toronto, please know that I am committed to: serve all of you, work for all of you, and most importantly, work with all of you!

Working with you means continuing to listen to, and learn from, the voices of community members and our Service, from every corner of this city, and particularly to those we’ve let down in the past – to strengthen, build, and repair.

Working with you means, I will be honest about what needs to be fixed and I want you to be honest with me right back;

I will be collaborative in building approaches that both help us make amends and strengthen our relationships.

I plan on working with you on many things however, today I’d like to highlight the priorities that I will be most focused on:

  1. Improving Trust in and within the Toronto Police Service
  1. Accelerating Police Reform and Professionalization
  1. Supporting Safer Communities

Each of these priorities are mutually supportive. Success on one will assist in progress on the others.

To deliver on the first priority, improving trust in and within our Service, we will work with our communities to repair, earn, and maintain their trust.

We will work with you to address the conditions that lead to crime, to prevent and address crime, and improve community safety and well-being; for everyone.

We will work with you to take a public health approach to addressing the needs of community members who have been victimized by gun violence, as well as those dealing with addictions and mental health challenges that sometimes brings them into contact with the police; this is critical to my third priority supporting safer communities.

We will work with you to fundamentally re-envision community policing, and do so in a way that treats people equitably, while promoting both healing and justice, resulting in true and enduring community safety and wellbeing.

These conversations will continue to include spaces for all voices, including the voices of community members and members of the Service from equity-seeking groups who may not have always felt heard.

We will hear you.

As we continue to build greater trust in and within the Service, we will also be taking concrete and measurable steps towards my second priority, Accelerating Police Reform and Professionalization

In recent years, we have made important progress in delivering on an ambitious agenda of police reform in Toronto.

Much of that comes from the work to implement:

  • The Board’s 81 directions on Police Reform
  •  Some comes from our collaborative and co-lead work on the 151 recommendations from the Honourable Gloria J. Epstein’s report on the handling of missing person investigations
  • And still more comes from our efforts with the city and others on addressing the 51 recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports with a view to focusing our efforts where they are needed most and helping others take charge of matters where the police are not truly required.

Our approach on all of these has been and will continue to be deliberately collaborative.

However not all of our changes are the result of work on the recommendations of others.

We have and will continue to demonstrate a commitment to modernization and progressive policing just as we did in developing our approach to the analysis of Race Based Data, broadened in the Board’s Policy and the work of its Anti-Racism Advisory Panel.

We have embarked on a robust and ambitious plan to capture and analyze race-based data and earlier this year when we announced our results – the most comprehensive thus far anywhere in Canada – we set a 38 point action plan that we intend to deliver.

We will continue to work with communities, to implement these recommendations in the pursuit of policing reform. But we will not stop there.

Because solutions for the future are not only found in the past, they’re also found in conversations taking place right now.

We are discussing ways to modernize our procedures and processes, including leadership development opportunities and promotional processes so we can identify the best people to deliver policing services in our great city.

We are exploring opportunities to create an Enterprise Risk Management Framework to help guide organizational decision making.

We are also looking to establish a Centre of Excellence to help professionalize the Service.

We will continue this important work to ensure our decision-making is evidence based and that there is transparent and equitable access to opportunities and resources for all our members.

This brings me to my third and final priority, and that is Supporting Safer Communities.

Simply put, our communities, cannot thrive unless they feel safe.

This morning we all woke up to the tragic news of gun violence, just north of our city. I want to offer my sincere condolences to all of the families and communities impacted by this incident – and all incidents of gun violence.

We know, the safety of our communities relies not on any single entity or interest, but a safety that is built by residents, community organizations, government agencies and the police working with each other to achieve a singular interest and a common goal.

I want all of our communities to know:

We will work with you to prevent and reduce victimization and violence, through evidence-based approaches to persistent and complex public safety issues. A real infrastructure of community safety and well-being.

We will work with you to co-design, co-develop, and co-deliver public safety outcomes that are important for you.

We will work with you to ensure we are harnessing new technologies and analytical capacities that better address the needs of our communities and our members.

We will work with you to ensure alignment of our efforts with those of our partner emergency service providers, with the city and all other agencies who work to promote safety and wellbeing in Toronto.

We will work with you to create widespread support for modern, progressive, inclusive and effective policing through sustained collaboration and engagement – real collaboration and engagement.

Over the coming months, you will hear a lot more about these three priorities. And I look forward to hearing from you as well.

This brings me to the two lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to share with you.

These lessons are important to me and they will continue to guide me in my interactions with our communities, and my internal engagements with members of the Service.

Lesson 1: The importance of seeking to understand, before seeking to be understood

Lesson 2: A leaders actions will always speak louder than their words

Learning these lessons, through trial-and-error, has helped me improve how I show up in relationships, in both my personal and professional life.

I will continue to keep them top-of-mind, as I serve all of you – residents, visitors, partners, and Service Members –as your Chief of Police.

Based on these two lessons I would like to make you a promise.

My promise is: I will seek to understand the unique perspectives of our communities, and our Service, and will work with you to ensure my actions speak louder than my words.

I’m making this promise to all of you today because I want to reaffirm my commitment to develop more trust, transparency and true partnerships –to commit to enhancing and maintaining our safe city together.

Now I would like to take a few moments to speak directly to the amazing members of the Service.

I want you to know that, as you continue to serve, protect, and respect all of our communities, you have my deepest gratitude, and unwavering support.

I know that over the past couple of years, policing, during a global pandemic has become more challenging, complex, and contentious.

That is likely to continue but you have demonstrated that you are up to the challenge.

I know that the stress some of you are under can have, and in some cases has had, an impact on your well-being and the well-being of your families.

I know that all of you, both sworn and civilian, have, time and again, gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve our communities.

As the Chief, it is my responsibility to ensure you have the knowledge, skills, abilities and support you require to be successful.

Please know:

I will work with you to ensure that you are, and that you feel, supported.

I will work with you to ensure that you are recognized

I will work with you to ensure that your work is celebrated

Now, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to my extended family and friends.

Many of you have known me for a very long time, and all of you have provided an incredible amount of love and support at every step in my life, both personal and professional.

Some of you here today are, like me, fiercely proud members of the Ukrainian community.

A community that has shaped and supported me my whole life.

Today, I want to acknowledge the community and in particular, the incredible impact of two very proud Ukrainians, my parents – who are both watching from a better place.

Speaking in Ukrainian to my parents:

Хочу подякувати своїм батькам. Мамо й тато – дякую Вам за те що Ви вивчили мене все пам’ятати нашу українську ідентичність і я вдячний за виховання в могутньому Торонто, місто котре мені рідне.

What I just said was; Thank you mother and father thank you for teaching me to remember our heritage and thank you for raising me in this great city, Toronto which I call home.

Finally, the three people who hold a very special place in my heart.

My wonderful wife, Carmela, and my sons Justin and Michael: Thank you for your endless love, confidence and support. I know that I would not be standing where I am today without you.

Thank you for believing in me! I love all three of you more than words can ever describe.

In closing, to the members of all of Toronto’s communities and members of the Toronto Police Service, I look forward to working with all of you to make Toronto an even more amazing place to live, work, and play.

I know that by working together we will keep Toronto the best and safest place to be.

A place where I will work tirelessly to:

  1. Improve trust in and within the Toronto Police Service
  2. Accelerate police reform and professionalization
  3. Support safer communities

A place where I will continue to serve and give everything that I have; to give back to the City that has given me everything that I have.

Thank you!

Chief walks down stairs
New Chief Myron Demkiw walks into the crowd after the change of command ceremonyPhoto: Brent Smyth

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