Fix policing or crisis looms, Sloly says

Peter Sloly
Peter Sloly

A “crisis” looms over policing in Toronto unless radical changes are made, including harnessing social media technology, says Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly.
Sloly, currently on leave and who was passed over last year for chief in favour of Mark Saunders, who is also Black, has expertise in social media and issued his warning at the Studio Y fellowship at the MaRS complex last Friday.
His message: harness technology and unless radical changes are made in the police, he fears for the future.
“I’ve never seen policing at this low a point in terms of public trust and legitimacy. I feel there’s a crisis in the offing not just here but right across North America,” Sloly said.
In some quarters Sloly has come under fire for speaking his mind. However, after yesterday’s Police Services Board meeting Mayor John Tory said Sloly’s general comments on areas of change are consistent with the KPMG report on policing and with what the board and the reform task force are considering.
Sloly’s comments were made in light of the KPMG report. Saunders said after the meeting that there is no animosity between himself and Sloly.
However, Toronto Police Association (TPA) is calling for an investigation into Sloly.
“I think he is stuck on the first stage of grief and anger” and Sloly’s words were “trite, bitter and sour grapes,” an irate TPA President Mike McCormack said.
But former vice-chair of the Police Services Board and current city councilor Michael Thompson stressed that Sloly “is entitled to his opinion to speak the truth. I think we should give Peter a medal for speaking up with such integrity.”
A police service spokesman said Sloly is on “leave and is not available.” He is taking his annual leave.
In his remarks, Sloly referred to Danzig St. and the Eaton Centre, scenes of multiple shootings in 2012, noting Toronto police, like other forces, has been too slow to appreciate the power of social media.
Sloly’s vision via social media is that of emphasizing crime prevention over enforcement.
He noted few police leaders will admit publicly that a thoroughly modernized police service could operate with fewer officers without compromising public safety.
According to Sloly, “we can probably drop ourselves by several hundred police officers which represents tens of millions of dollars” in cost savings.
His strategy is for every officer on the street to have access to the Internet on a mobile device.
“We can shrink the footprint of what we need in terms of police stations” and equipment, and exponentially expand the abilities and the capacity of frontline police officers, he added.
Sloly also noted his role as the lead on the PACER (Police and Community Engagement Review) report which contained 31 recommendations to address carding and systemic disproportionate stops of people of colour by police, particularly young Black men.