Late Toronto Police Chief Bill McCormack’s sterling life of community service was celebrated at a Black History Month event in 13 Division on February 26.
The city’s sixth top cop passed away last September at 83.
McCormack’s son, Mike, President of the Toronto Police Association, and sister Lisa accepted the posthumous award at the 18th British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church/13 Division event.
“My father had three families,” said McCormack. “They were our family, the police family and the people of Toronto he deeply loved. “He was ahead of his time.”
He said his father taught his children to treat everyone they encountered with dignity and respect.
“Where you came from, the colour of your skin, who you are and how much money you have didn’t matter to him,” McCormack added. “He always said we should treat everyone the same because anyone of those persons could be us.”
The family patriarch was born in Mauritius. He served as a radio officer on naval ships and was a Bermuda police officer for four years before coming to Toronto in 1959 and joining the-then Metropolitan Toronto Police Department.
Toronto’s first black officer, Larry McLarty, who died last December at age 87, was also honoured at the event.
“History has a way of choosing people who are just right for the circumstances,” said retired Superintendent Dave McLeod. “The key characteristics are humility, perseverance, professionalism and a keen sense of purpose. Those of us who knew Larry know that he was the perfect person to open the door and keep it open. He just couldn’t afford to fail because there were so many others depending on him.”
McLarty retired as a Detective Sergeant in Professional Standards in August 1992 after 31 years of service.
“You have to be of pristine conduct and have immense confidence and professionalism to be assigned to that unit,” noted McLeod.
McLarty’s widow, Nona, and his grand-daughter, Carley, attended the event.
Retired Constable Ojo Tewogbade, with the support of 13 Division, the BME Church and community members, launched the Black History Month celebration – commonly known as the Ojos because it’s held on the same Sunday that the Academy Awards are held – that recognizes professional and community service achievements.
Superintendent Scott Baptist, 13 Division unit commander, said the celebration is one of the proudest traditions of Toronto policing.
“Tonight is a celebration of partnership, friendship and the incredible power and strength of diversity,” he said. “Our city is in so many respects the envy of the world. The Toronto Police Service is a proud organization that strives to constantly learn and improve so that we might deliver the highest levels of service to the neighbourhoods we serve. We have worked diligently to capitalize on our city’s cultural diversity to ensure that our membership is inclusive and reflective of this extraordinary community.”
Chief Mark Saunderssaid the event is a tribute to the vision of the partnership between the police and the community.
“When I got on the job, 34 years ago, I thought that police work was the job of keeping good people safe and you do that by arresting bad guys to make the world a better place for the good guys,” he said. “As time goes on, you start to realize that this is a calling in which people are asking for help and they are hoping that you have the ability at having empathy, tolerance and the ability to treat people with dignity and respect.”
Saunders also addressed the Service’s new action plan recently rolled out.
“When you look at what the changes are, it is not only to say that the police service is not broken,” he said. “It is to say there is room for improvement. There are things we can do better. We have learnt from our mistakes and one of the key things is that we have to develop stronger relationships. The cohesive factor in community safety in any city is the relationship that the community has with law enforcement. We have a good one, but we need to expand on that.”
Awards were presented to former Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee, retired Auxiliary Staff Superintendent Ben Lau, Auxiliary Staff Sergeant Eslyn Ince, Auxiliary Sergeant Vicky Lai, Auxiliary Constables David Tariq and Mark Sakerno, Sergeant Alex Csibi and Constables Jan Glowa and Gentian Barsaku.