'Sometimes we just need to reach out for help': Ottawa's new police chief opens up
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's new police chief opened up Thursday, discussing everything from his former soccer career to his first day on the job in the capital, and got emotional while remembering a member who took his own life.
“I’m going to walk you through a little bit more about who Peter Sloly is,” the chief of the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) said, beginning his 28-minute speech.
Sloly was the keynote speaker at latest event for the mayor’s breakfast series on Thursday morning. There, he provided an inside look at the last "100-plus days" since taking office.
In front of community and business leaders in Ottawa, Sloly asked those in the room to "buy in" to working together in order to advance the safety and well-being of those in the capital.
“Given that this is the nation’s capital, we have that ability to influence and impact,” Sloly told the audience.
Arriving in Ottawa
Sloly was officially named Ottawa’s police chief in August 2019 – a time he remembers well.
“It was a hot steamy day,” he said.
He also remembers the flashes from the cameras and mics placed nearby as media and community members gathered to meet him.
“A bit of a deer in headlights, lots of light bulbs flashing, lots of tough questions coming in from media, lots of tough stares from my own members who were not quite sure who I was – and was only tapped into the rumour mill and waiting to see what the real version of me was.”
Sloly says he can also remember the large smile he sported that day, saying he felt grateful for the warm welcome.
Something else he will never forget from his arrival in Ottawa – the loss of an OPS member around that time.
Const. Thomas Robert, 35, died by suicide inside Ottawa Police headquarters on Friday, Sept. 27.
“This in nothing new to policing – this is a wake up call for policing and I think it’s a wake up call for all of us,” he said.
He choked up discussing the loss and encouraged anyone in need to seek help.
“Sometimes we just need to reach out.”
Sloly was open about his career prior to joining the OPS as chief of police.
After his soccer career ended, the chief said he applied to both the Toronto Fire Department and the Toronto Police Service (TPS). He joked that the police force was first to get in touch.
After years with TPS, Sloly became a deputy chief.
“I had a great career, enjoyed working in the city, had a chance to work across the country,” he said.
Sloly also discussed his time working in UN peace keeping missions. The chief was in Kosovo from 2001 to 2002, where he said he worked alongside police forces from dozens of countries.
“As a Canadian at the midpoint of my career, trying to figure out what’s the best way to do policing, I had the change to look at 53 examples from every continent,” he said.
“And what came back from that experience was you have, we have, the best brand of policing anywhere in the world right here in this country.”
Sloly acknowledged there are individual members that can "let down" the institution of policing but said as a country, Canada has an "amazing" brand of policing.
And when it comes to Ottawa, Sloly referred to the service as the best in the nation.
“The reason why I came to this city is I believe you have the best brand of policing anywhere in this country right here in Ottawa.”
Ottawa’s chief made it clear the reason he resigned from Toronto’s service was because he did not get the chief of police job in that city.
“Sometimes you hit the post and you’ve gotta move on,” he said.
The chief also spoke about his soccer career and his first few months on the job. Watch the full interview in extended coverage for more.