Toronto’s first black police officer dies

Wilberforce  McLarty
Wilberforce McLarty

Jamaica-born Lawrence Wilberforce  McLarty,  the first black uniformed officer in the Toronto Police service, died  in Oshawa on  Thursday after a lengthy illness He was 87.

McLarty who joined the Toronto Police service in 1960, retired in 1992 as a staff sergeant in the Public Complaints’ Bureau.

Toronto  Police Chief Mark Saunders said McLarty has left an indelible mark.

“Being the first brings a lot of challenges and he would certainly have been subjected to many difficulties,”  Saunders noted.

“You have to have thick skin and he definitely had that. When you look at how we have progressed as a police service, we have to remember the starting point was Larry,”  said Saunders, the city’s first black police chief.

McLarty came to Canada in 1957 from Jamaica where he was a police officer for eight years. He wanted to continue working as a policeman but experienced a setback when his first application to the all-white Toronto police service was turned down. He was told that he did not meet one of the requirements as he was one-eighth  of an inch too short.

Two months later, while being fitted for a new suit, he asked the customer service clerk for a his measurement and discovered that his height matched the Toronto police service entry requirement. He reapplied to join the service and was accepted.

A scholarship in his name is administered by the Toronto Black Business and Professional  Association and funded through donations by members of the Toronto Police Service Black Internal Support Network.

McLarty’s funeral took place in Whitby on Wednesday.