It was 47 years ago that a delayed flight in Ireland led Bill Hurley to a policing career in Toronto.
The 18-year-old was travelling from Ireland to Toronto to work in the restaurant business as a means to travel the world.
“My plan was to tour the world and work in the restaurant business because that’s a great way to do that,” says Hurley, who had dreams to travel in Canada, then the United States and, eventually, make his way to Australia and New Zealand.
His flight to Montreal was delayed by three hours and the young man was left to wait. A man approached him and began to chat with him. Both were heading to Toronto. The man was a former police officer for the Metropolitan Toronto Police who had resigned to work in insurance.
“He asked me to join his family. He had a young wife and child and we chit-chatted for three hours. He gave me his card and asked me to give him a call when I was settled in Toronto.”
That was January 18, 1968 and, on July 31, 2015, Hurley will be retiring from the Service as a staff sergeant after 47 years on.
Hurley did call the man from the airport a week after landing in Toronto and had dinner with his family. The man, Ian MacAnoy, told Hurley he would make a great police officer. Hurley applied and was accepted as a cadet a few weeks later. His first day of work was March 26, 1968.
As a cadet he started in the Summons and Licences Bureau, where he was responsible for physically handing summons to people who ignored them in the mail. He often handed summons to a repeat offender who had once shot a police officer, recalls Hurley.
“You meet some interesting characters,” says Hurley, who said the first time he went to deliver summons to the individual, the meeting went “quite all right” and he was then made to deliver summons to the same man many times again by his supervisors.
After his cadet training was over, Hurley went on to become a constable and was off to work in 2 Traffic in the west end for six years, where he worked alongside Constable Kevin Pearce, a co-worker and friend of Hurley’s for the last 40 years.
Pearce and Hurley first worked together in 1975, first as co-workers and, later, Hurley as a Sergeant and then Staff Sergeant.
“He never puts himself first, always puts people ahead of him. He is kind and religious and he just constantly wants to help people,” says Pearce, of his long-time friend.
“As a boss, there wasn’t anyone better. He was supportive, he was firm but fair…he always had an open-door policy. You could go to him anytime. Just talk your brains out to him, whether it be personal, or job related, he was just a solid man. He was always there,” Pearce said.
After being transferred to 23 Division, Hurley was promoted in April 1987 to Sergeant and worked in 14 Division for five years. He was then promoted in 1992 to Staff Sergeant and has been at 22 Division since then.
“In our business we get to see people in every facet of life and in every state of life… where they are going through moments of great joy and triumphs in their life all the way down people facing tragedies and great difficulties in life. People are experiencing deep emotional trauma and people who are at the high end of that… and I think there are very few careers where you can experience that and in some way have some impact in the lives of some of these people,” says Hurley, of how he has seen his career as a police officer.
He always has a very gentle and professional way of dealing with people in conflict. He is never quick to judge, always keeps an open mind and realizes that some people just have bad days
According to Sergeant Jeff Alderdice, who worked with Hurley for four years, his sensitivity to the pain of others was something that made him a great officer.
“He always has a very gentle and professional way of dealing with people in conflict. He is never quick to judge, always keeps an open mind and realizes that some people just have bad days,” says Alderdice, adding it has been great to have learned from somebody like that.
Many junior officers have learned from Staff Sergeant Hurley and have sought his advice, too. His dedication to the job has been visible to anyone who has worked with him or for him - even if he has had to be strict sometimes, as Constable Jermaine Watt will recall.
“When I first met Hurley, we had something called eCOPS to file our reports,” says Watts, who typed up his report only to find it rejected by Hurley.
“So I asked him why and he says ‘i before e, except after…?’ and I said ‘c’ – and then was ‘Great go fix it now,” says Watts, laughing. But what he remembers is how carefully Hurley read everything to make sure it was right – close enough to find a small spelling mistake in the report.
“I’m going to miss him, especially the way he laughs. He has a unique way with his shoulders rising when he laughs,” says Watts.
Many of his co-workers will remember Hurley for his famous line as he ends conversations.
“At the end of every conversation he would always say ‘all the best’,” says Staff Sergeant Doug MacDonald, as do many others who spoke about him and the conversations they had with him.
“47 years on, and speaking with the man, he is as humble as ever, that’s what I am going to remember about him, says Constable Rupinder Gill. “He never misses a day, he takes the time to stop and talk to you in the hallway and I think everyone has learned from him. You just take a day at a time and work your hardest.”
For Superintendent Shaun Narine, who once worked for Hurley in D Platoon and later came back to 22 Division as a superintendent, Hurley will be remembered for his professional work ethic.
“He has always treated people with dignity and respect… he led by example,” says Narine. “He is a quality person.”
As retirement approaches, the Staff Sergeant is not afraid to leave the job after 47 years.
“It is important to make your decision to go. It is like moving to another stage in your life, that is how I would see it,” says Hurley. “The last 47 years have been fabulous. It was a tremendous career and I have met great people on the job.”
As for his travel plans 47 years ago when he was an 18-year-old boarding a plane to Canada?
“They’re going to happen within the year,” he says.