Chief McCormack 1933-2016

By Kevin Masterman, Toronto Police Service Published: 5:54 p.m. September 8, 2016
Updated: 11:17 a.m. September 9, 2016

Chief William Joseph McCormack was remembered as an honest leader and gentleman by members of the Service and his family.

A photo of a man in TPS uniform
Chief William McCormack, served as Toronto's Chief from 1989 to 1995

The former Chief, who served 35 years with the Service, and, as Toronto’s top cop from October 1989 to March 1995, died today at age 83.

Chief Mark Saunders expressed his condolences and memories of Chief McCormack, whom he served under as a constable.

“I know there are many members of the Service who fondly remember their time under Chief McCormack, and I’m one of them,” Saunders said. “He was the first Chief that I remember that went out in the communities and walked in the communities.”

Chief Saunders said the former Chief, better known as Bill, was respected for his work as a Homicide detective and also for meeting face-to-face with rank-and-file officers, even during strained times between the Association and management.

“He was such a strong and effective leader – that won’t be forgotten,” said Saunders, of McCormack, who continued to be an ambassador for the Service at police-community events.

A group of police officers in uniform
Chief McCormack's graduating class photo

He touched so many people, not just in policing but out in the community.

He and his wife, Jean, have five children, four serving as police officers. Four have served as Toronto Police Officers: Mike (now head of the Toronto Police Association), William, Kathy and Jamie.

“We were blessed to have him as a role model,” said Mike. “He exemplified to us what it was to be a man, and a police officer.”

“He had the respect of police officers, judges, lawyers, and the entire legal community because of his sense of fairness… To this day, people come up to me and remember him fondly,” McCormack said, crediting his father with treating every person he met with dignity. “He touched so many people, not just in policing but out in the community.”

McCormack credits his father’s background, being brought up in a multicultural society in Mauritius, with preparing him to lead such a diverse city.

Men in TPS uniform speaking to another man
Chief McCormack on a walk through Chinatown
A group of men sitting and standing
At the 50th anniversary of the Toronto Police Service January 6, 2007: former Chiefs William McCormack, David Boothby, Julian Fantino, then-Chief Bill Blair, Jack Marks and James Mackey

“He had a tremendous amount of respect for people and was never negative,” he said. 

Born on Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean on February 21, 1933, the son of a British Colonial officer, he served on a British merchant marine vessel during the Korean War and later as a police officer in Bermuda before joining the-then Metropolitan Toronto Police Force. 

He began the Ceremonial Unit and Toronto Police Museum and opened the doors to the public, the first chief to hold community events on the steps of the headquarters lobby – a tradition to this day.

Retired S/Insp. Hugh Ferguson Sr. worked in the Chief’s office during McCormack’s entire tenure.

“He was a gentleman. I think it was his upbringing,” Ferguson Sr. said of his Irish Catholic family with deep policing roots. “He was very honest, very up front and people trusted him.”

He was formally promoted to Detective in 1969, serving in Homicide throughout the 70s, later co-authoring a 2005 book: Life on Homicide: A Police Detective's Memoir. 

As a homicide investigator, he was meticulous in every detail, Ferguson Sr. said.

A man in uniform on a baseball diamond throwing a ball
Chief William McCormack throws out the opening pitch for a Blue Jays game at what was then called the SkyDome

“Things had to be just right,” he said. “And with the frontline officers who did a lot of the grunt work, he was very generous and thankful.”

McCormack went on to hold every rank in his rise to Chief, serving in Homicide, 52 Division, Internal Affairs, Public Affairs, Field Operations, Executive Services and Support Services.

He was the first Catholic to become Chief in Toronto.

He also remembers a great love of his family, with his office lined with family photos.

“Family was everything to him,” Ferguson Sr. said of living for his five children. “Jean was always there for him when he had a bad day or needed encouragement.”

He also recounts a photo of him in a turban, flanked by two Punjabi officers in Mauritius, which he proudly displayed.

Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle also expressed his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Chief McCormack.

“I know, as a citizen of the City of Toronto, of the incredible hard work and the great job that he did in making our city as safe a city as it is and keeping our communities as safe and healthy as they are. And, I know from speaking to his colleagues, and many of whom are still here at the Service, how incredibly highly regarded Chief McCormack was, how respected he was with the Toronto Police Service,” Pringle said. “This is a sad day for the city.”

The visitation will be held on Sunday, September 11, 2016, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Jerrett Funeral Home, 8088 Yonge Street, Thornhill. 

The funeral will take place on Monday, September 12, 2016, at 11 a.m., at St. Paul’s Basilica, 83 Power Street, Toronto. 

A family-only interment will take place afterwards.

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