Trailblazing Black Officer Dies

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 2:58 p.m. December 5, 2016

A trailblazer in policing in the city has passed on. Larry McLarty, Toronto Police Service’s first black uniformed officer, died on December 1 after a lengthy illness He was 87.

A man holds stands in front of a seated crowd with his arms outstretched
Retired Detective Sergeant Larry McLarty addresses the audience after accepting an award from the Toronto Police Black Internal Support Network

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,” said the city’s first black police chief. “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. If there was no Larry, who knows where we would be today?”

Migrating in 1957 from Jamaica, where he was a police officer for eight years, McLarty anticipated continuing as a law enforcement officer in his new home.

He also knew he would have to pay his dues and do jobs outside his chosen field. However, what he did not know at the time was that the faces of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Forces were completely white.

Employed for just a day as a railway porter, McLarty worked as a catalogue book packer at Sears, a night cleaner at the Bank of Canada and a helper in Toronto Western Hospital’s kitchen before making his move.

His first application to the city’s police service was rejected because he did not meet one of the requirements. He was one-eighth of an inch too short.

Two months later while being fitted for a new suit, McLarty asked the customer service clerk for his measurement. When informed that his height matched the Service’s job entry prerequisite, he reapplied and was hired on January 25, 1960.

For me, he was an icon

A man standing in an audience
Larry McLarty at the 2014 Black History Month event at police headquarters

Inspector Sonia Thomas, the highest-ranking female black officer in the city, is proud to be standing on McLarty’s shoulders.

“For me, he was an icon,” she said. “His name resonates with black officers and we owe him a debt of gratitude for all he did to make sure that we could succeed in this Service.”

Retiring in 1992, as a staff sergeant in the Public Complaints’ Bureau, McLarty’s pioneering legacy is kept alive through a Black Business & Professional Association-administered scholarship in his name, funded through donations by members of the TPS Black Internal Support Network.

McLarty’s funeral takes place on Wednesday, December 7, at Barnes Memorial Funeral Home, 5295 Thickson Rd. in Whitby. The visitation is from 10 to 11 a.m., when the funeral starts.

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