Community Policing
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Jan 1991, p. 241-250
McCormack, William, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
What the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force is all about, with some statistics. Some remarks about the increase of violent crime. The relationship between the police force and the public. Toronto compared to some other big city police forces. Erosion in the relationship between the police and community: dangers and causes. The issues of apathy and disrespect. The role of politicians, and of the media. A basic definition of law enforcement in terms of policing. The widening of that definition. Criminal activity. Some statistics and factors affecting the kind and level of criminal activity. The issue of armaments and their availability. A success story. The key to success in community policing. Some remarks about security and the relationship between the police force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Some last remarks about the media and the speaker's support for a vigorous media in Metropolitan Toronto.
Date of Original
17 Jan 1991
Language of Item
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Full Text
William McCormack, Chief of Police, Metropolitan Toronto
Chairman: Harold Roberts President


A traffic cop's attention was drawn to a lady motorist who was calmly driving down the wrong side of an avenue. He stopped her and inquired testily, "Don't you know what that white line in the middle of the avenue is for?"

The lady considered carefully, then hazarded, "Bicycles?"

There used to be lots of stories about police, and perhaps in the "cop shops" they still make the rounds, but in the complexity of the multi-cultural and racial city that Toronto has become, jokes seem somewhat less prevalent. Life is complex and life is serious and Toronto is no small town (2.2 million). It requires a Police Force of over 5600 uniformed members and has a budget of over half a billion dollars.

In October 1989 William McCormack became Chief of this force. In November of '90, Timothy Appleby of the Globe and Mail evaluated the Chief's first year: "It has been a rough year.

Among the issues on the front burner:

1. A public inquiry into the force's internal affairs unit is looming, focusing on its investigation of a sex-for-hire tale that may have been covered up by senior officers.

2. A constable currently on trial for manslaughter is one of three Metro officers charged in separate police shootings involving blacks. (He was subsequently found "not guilty") Two other officers, meanwhile, face unrelated charges of attempted murder and armed robbery.

3, Budget cutbacks are in place, placing severe restrictions on overtime.

4. The seven-member police commission that oversees the force is conspicuously divided--only two of its members tend to raise any tough questions."

Well if the Commission isn't tough, the media is. And if the media doesn't keep him on his toes, the members of the force will.

In short being Chief is no picnic.

But, in spite of its pitfalls, Chief McCormack seems to thrive in his leadership. He is popular generally with the force and with the public. Much of this can be traced to the fact that he enjoys and remembers people, and in fact is very down to earth.

Born in Mauritius, the son and grandson of British Colonial Policemen, Chief McCormack began police work in Bermuda, before coming to Toronto to "start again" in 1954. Three of his children are Metro Cops, (a fourth resigned in July '90 to move to Aylmer with her husband). In Toronto, McCormack rose through the ranks and served for over ten years in Homicide. He knows the force he leads.

Those of us who have grown up in Toronto have seen tremendous change in our city over the last thirty to forty years. Things are no longer simple. Most of us struggle with our own identities in the multi-cultural society that is Toronto today.

While the road is not easy, Chief William McCormack provides the personal warmth of leadership, with a sense of humour, that seems appropriate to the day for the largest police force in Canada. We welcome him to The Empire Club of Canada today.

William McCormack:

Reverend Sir, Mr. Chairman, distinguished head table guests, I'm absolutely overjoyed to be here today on behalf of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force to represent the force to you. I'm honoured to be at this very prestigious location of The Empire Club. I can't begin to tell you how it affects me. That's something that I'll speak about in a few moments.

If I may begin by saying that I'm also equally honoured to have the Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ralph Culligan, and the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, Tom O'Grady, beside me. It's becoming a bit of a habit because we had lunch together yesterday too, so I must tell you that with their advice and cooperation and help we can't go too far wrong. I want to recognize that fact. I also would like to recognize that I'm deeply grateful to Madame Chair, Mrs. Rowlands, and members of the Board of Commissioners of Police who are here, who also have supported not only the force but myself in the last year. I will stop here other than to say that I'm also very pleased to see Major General Legge. Sir I'm delighted to see you and I would recognize you as a great supporter of the force. But I just wanted to tell you very briefly that it has been stated here today that I started in the Office of Chief of Police on the 1st of October 1989 and there have been several occasions of highlight during that period of time until this date. I was talking to one of the members of our morning meeting this morning and in reflection, looking back, I often said at that morning meeting, "Well it can't get worse. Anything that could possibly have happened, has happened." I was reminded this morning that I was wrong. As a matter of fact now it's war. So I can assure you I will refrain from saying that any more and just carry on.

I think I should address you on what the force is all about, and very briefly give you a bit of statistical data. As it has been said, there are some 7,600 people who are members of the force, approximately 5,600 of whom are sworn police officers, and approximately 2,000 being civilian personnel. I should also tell you that the force has increased quite substantially in its civilian area. Over the past years that we have been in existence the civilian area of the force itself has developed to the point where it has become a very vital and crucial part of the effectiveness of this particular police force. You're aware of the population, you're aware of all of those things and I'm certainly not going to bore you with statistical detail in reference to that, but I should possibly refer very slightly to the increase in criminal activity that we're experiencing today so that you may understand where we're coming from.

Violent crimes in Metropolitan Toronto have increased dramatically over the last year. The violent crimes in 1990 increased 11.3 percent which I might say at the outset is totally unacceptable for this city, for the culture, for the manner in which we as Canadians have evolved. It is most concerning. I might also say to you that we're addressing that in many, many ways. The force has now become very well equipped with the latest technology. The technology that's available to the force at the present moment and that which is being modified, is being put into action in such a way that it's almost a wonder. We have technology that ages people one way or the other. We have technologies that give you an almost instantaneous response on fingerprint identification. The point of my saying this to you is that, as a police officer who has served in the field and who has served in specialized areas such as the homicide squad, which I'm very proud of having had service in, we come back to something. In spite of the technology my good friends here will tell you the same thing, we come back to that which is most important to all of us as police officers, and also as citizens of any community or as citizens of any country, and that is the human factor. And what we come back to here is something I think that's very unique to policing and will be more so in the future, and that is what Sir Robert Peel said at the inception of policing, "the police are the public and the public are the police."

In that vein ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by telling you that I, representing this force, have been very, very fortunate over the years in Metropolitan Toronto in that we in this climate of things have had a tremendous cooperation with the public. That cooperation, that help, that assistance, that caring, has been a great measure of our success. I would venture to say that if you speak to forces across Canada you'll find much the same thing occurs. I think it's something that we can be very proud of. But it's something that we also have to look at from a very, very delicate point of view. There can be an erosion created in that type of liaison between the public and the police. That erosion can be created by the malfunction of information, the malfunction of communication, and the breakdown in the necessary respect for both parties and the necessary communication at all times. And that probably will be one of our most difficult areas of concern.

Without naming cities in North America, I'm sure that you're all very familiar with larger cities that I've had particular interest in, as a member of the major Chiefs of North America, where apathy has set in. Where not only apathy has set in but disrespect has set in, not only for the police but for the public. It is not unusual in certain cities where you cannot find a witness to any crime that is committed, although you may have hundreds of people witnessing that particular crime. And when speaking to the police you can get no information whatsoever because unfortunately the police have retreated into a situation of a barricaded mentality, of the army-of-occupation type of thought which doesn't work as has been proven. And I think that again it's very true to say that the Chiefs across the continent are striving, striving very hard to put that attitude back to where the public have confidence in the police and the police have confidence in the public.

It is very important indeed that our political people also should take into consideration what they have, and how they have developed it over the years, together with the media, and not address matters of insignificance as if they were something of great importance, not sensationalize for one's own personal needs or own personal vested interests whatever they may be. But to look at it from a very figurative point of view, and to say, "We are all in this together." We have roots in this community. Those roots in this community are established for the protection of life and property, the maintenance of order and the prosecution of offenders against the peace. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the basic definition of law enforcement in terms of policing.

All of us here have been subject to that definition. It has widened tremendously. It has widened to the point where policing now has become a social service, where at 3:00 in the morning you have the response to a domestic situation, a situation where an individual may be in dire need of shelter--any of those things. Although we did attend to these things in the past, we did not become directly involved, but now it is incumbent upon us to become directly involved. It is incumbent upon us to have the understanding, the discipline, to be able to deal with these things because we are the only agency available at that time of the morning and in many cases at other times. So I am concerned in that regard. I'm concerned that in the future the social agencies that are involved in large urban areas should be looking at the people that are in need. And that is something that I think that all of you, together with the police officers that are present, and all of us as a matter of fact, have a great concern for. We are developing continuously in that area to better communicate, to better accommodate, that need. I think we have a lot of help in one sense in this city, from the various areas that have established shelters and so on, but it is not enough.

Branching from that subject to the subject of criminal activity that is now in existence, let me begin there by telling you that I think that it's indisputable in any of our minds that money in terms of criminality is the root of all evil. And when you talk about money in crime today you talk about drugs. You talk about the resultant effects of drugs. You talk about the peripheral effects that are not normally considered. The habit, how it creates the need, how it creates the projection for others to become involved in what we call the middle man and the back end. What you have there is a very, very serious matter of great, great importance for now, for the future and especially the youth of our community. I venture to say, ladies and gentlemen, that we can enforce all of the laws that we have on the books in relation to this particular subject. You can build more and more courts and you can put more and more policemen out in the street, and again you can address this and it needs to be addressed punitively. But the answer, I would suggest, is in education. The answer is in being involved, and realizing the dangers and also branching out into all of our educational systems conjunctively; the police, the public, the courts, the government, together in a thrust to make sure that the future is well guarded as far as our youth is concerned and as far as our people are concerned.

So again, let me tell you that the statistical data is frightening in relation to the rise in crime relative to those peripheral areas. I can tell you that the state of the economy also has an effect, and the state of the economy will have an effect for the future months. Those people who unfortunately have been either hooked, using the terminology, or are addicted to the consumption of drugs, who are now unemployed, who are now not in a position of getting their supply legitimately as they would see it (although it is quite illegitimate) are turning to other things. Those things are the break-and-enters to your homes. Those things are the robberies that have escalated dramatically to the point where we have had some 300 last year.

Let me just give you the statistics if I may for a moment. The instances of crime where banking institutions have been concerned have risen to almost 400 last year by comparison with much less the year before, and all of these have been armed robberies. The weapons seized in 1990 were some 4,290 weapons alone in Metropolitan Toronto. I could give you these statistics on and on. But let me not dwell on statistics, let me tell you that another area that is of grave concern in Metropolitan Toronto today is that of the armaments that are available and are being used in certain communities and certain areas, together with those people who would style themselves as gang members. Those people who would become involved in criminal activity for the sake of being like West Side Story. Unfortunately with some of the youth in high schools and so on, it has become a fashionable thing.

It will tell you a story of success. In 1988 and the beginning of '89, we saw that we were going to have a monumental problem in relation to street crime, in relation to gangs developing in high schools and all of those things. At that time we literally borrowed and stole from other units and put a unit called the Street Crime Unit together which began to address the gang activity and the street crime in two ways. Going into the schools and lecturing, doing public education in the schools which resulted in 70,000 young people being spoken to by members of this unit. And also on the other side, addressing it from an intelligence and from a punitive point of view, with the ringleaders of the gangs and so on. Let me refer to this as a success story which has resulted in the diffusing, quite substantially, of the gang activity. We had a visitor from Chicago. A Commander of the Chicago police came in after three days being out with my Street Crime Unit and sat down in my office, shook his head, and said, "I wish we had done that 18 years ago in Chicago because I would not have to command a unit of 500 to 800 police officers involved in street crime, gangs, and drive-by shootings had we gone into the education area." So I just give you that as part of what has to be done.

My whole theme, my whole theory, and I think the theory of this force which is supported extremely well by the Board of Commissioners of Police, is that the key to the success of policing in a large urban area such as this, is that of community policing, is that of being able to address the needs in those very large areas of concern with the exchange of information with the actual person involved on the beat or in an area where the merchants are being spoken to, the people are being spoken to. Very, very expensive. Not only is it very expensive, but it is the only way for the future. So I'm committed to community-based policing. It has been a success story too. But you still have to have the ability to respond for calls. When you are in your home and you're being threatened or when you're in your home and you have a problem, or wherever you happen to be, you expect a police officer to be there quickly. So therefore on the other side of this issue we have to maintain the ability to move quickly, to respond to calls, and to deal with the criminal action that occurs. Again that's very expensive. So when you look at a budget of some $500 million, and you look at the size of this force and you look at what we have to face in the future, I would say as a commercial, that it is not bad from the point of view of what each and every one of us pay as a citizen of this community for the protection that is afforded to us. And by comparison statistically with any urban area in North America of equal size, of equal population, there is no comparison. Although we have the problems we do now, and we envision the future to be difficult, I hope that we have the foresight to deal with those problems in the manner in which we are accustomed, and in the manner in which the devotion, the help, the assurance of the public has always been in Metropolitan Toronto.

There are two things that I will mention briefly. One is the security situation. Let me assure you as members of the public that because of the difficult time that we are in at the present moment in relation to the Gulf situation and all those things, your personal security as far as this city is concerned, as far as the country is concerned, as far as the province is concerned, is definitely being looked after. It is of paramount importance that we do not escalate the need for material to go out that would be inflammatory, cause any panic, or anything of that nature to occur. But let me assure you that there is a tremendous working relationship between the police forces in Canada. We do this on a day-today basis. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has national and international responsibility to Canada It is the lead force as far as we are concerned. The Ontario Provincial Police has the responsibility for the Province of Ontario and I have the responsibility for Metropolitan Toronto. We work in joint force operations, 'which requires not only communication but what the word itself would suggest, joint forces. And that communication, that cooperation, puts us in a position that we can react municipally, provincially, nationally or internationally. There are few countries in the world that I think can boast of that type of cooperation. So let me assure you, that whatever occurs, we will be in a position to address it from a civil police point of view. That cooperation is extended to the military forces, and again all of the intelligence that's involved in between.

Let me finish by touching on a subject that is very near and dear to all of our hearts and that is the media. Many times when I go to functions I find people coming to me and saying, "My God how do you take it, as far as the media are concerned?" Let me tell you that we have a very vigorous media in Metropolitan Toronto. I think you all know that. Let me tell you that the media project themselves in all aspects of government, of police, and so on. But quite rightly so. I believe that the vigorousness of the media is probably one of the greatest assets that we have, because although they may be most uncomfortable and difficult and sometimes almost exasperating, they are the only conduit that we have to the public at large, and if they did not do what they have to do responsibly, we would all be very disadvantaged. So therefore let me tell you that the only comment in furtherance to that is that I hope that they always will be as vigorous. I hope also that the media will be fair, and, hopefully, they will not branch into those areas of sensationalism that do not in my view, respectfully, profit either the public, the police or anyone else in Metropolitan Toronto.

I'm deeply grateful for having had this opportunity. I want to thank everybody for listening to my few words. And I want to tell you, on behalf of not only my force, and I take this liberty, but on behalf of all policemen throughout Canada, that we have a vocation that is devoted to the safety, to the future of our country, our municipality, our province or wherever we serve, and we hope to be able to serve you, collectively, in that manner in the future. Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Margaret Scrivener, former MPP for the riding of St. David's, former Chairman, Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Community Policing

What the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force is all about, with some statistics. Some remarks about the increase of violent crime. The relationship between the police force and the public. Toronto compared to some other big city police forces. Erosion in the relationship between the police and community: dangers and causes. The issues of apathy and disrespect. The role of politicians, and of the media. A basic definition of law enforcement in terms of policing. The widening of that definition. Criminal activity. Some statistics and factors affecting the kind and level of criminal activity. The issue of armaments and their availability. A success story. The key to success in community policing. Some remarks about security and the relationship between the police force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Some last remarks about the media and the speaker's support for a vigorous media in Metropolitan Toronto.