A longtime police officer who helped introduce diversity to the ranks of the Ottawa police is now set to become the first visible minority police chief in Ontario.

Insp. Kai Liu says he will hand in his uniform and turn over the badge he's worn for two decades so he can become the police chief in Gananoque next month.

"I don't see myself leaving a family here, I see myself expanding it and bringing on a whole new community and new group of officers," Liu told CTV Ottawa on Wednesday.

Liu has won numerous policing awards during his 22 years on the Ottawa police force. He's also lectured at the United Nations on violence against women.

Throughout his career, he's broken racial barriers. In 1986, he became the first Asian police officer to be sworn in to the Ottawa police.

"I remember and I can recount on many incidents where I would be simply driving down the street and people would stop dead in their tracks or vehicles would stop and people would stare because I look so different and in uniform than what they were traditionally used to seeing," said Liu.

The departing officer is also credited with being instrumental in making the Ottawa police force more diverse - it now has the highest percentage of female officers nationwide.

"He's changed the perception when it comes to recruiting," said Ottawa Police Chief Vern White.

While White says he's happy for Liu, he also says he's surprised by his departure, adding he saw the officer as a future leader in Ottawa and hopes he will one day return to the Capital.

"I understand the desire when you want to be in charge - you can make a difference more quickly, you can turn the ship faster and you can get an organization in your direction," said White. "I wish him well."

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins