THUNDER BAY - The new chief of the Thunder Bay Police Service says he plans to strengthen relationships both within the service and the community at large, something that's being welcomed by the police association as well as city leadership.
“I think the biggest thing I am going to bring to the police force and the community is my engagement,” said Thunder Bay Police Service chief designate Darcy Fleury, who currently serves as a chief superintendent with the RCMP.
“I really believe it’s important that we communicate and establish really strong, sustainable partnerships with all of the organizations we work with, different government agencies, the community at large. I’ve done that my entire career.”
Fleury was announced as the new chief of police during the Thunder Bay Police Service Board meeting on Tuesday.
Having served with the RCMP for the past 36 years, Fleury has held a variety of positions and worked in communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Alberta. Early on his career, Fleury worked in Kenora and did travel to Thunder Bay on several occasions.
A member of the Red River Métis, Fleury’s father is one of the founding members of the Manitoba Métis Federation, of which he is also a member.
During the transition period with acting police chief Dan Taddeo starting April 17, Fleury said he wants to focus on some of the key issues facing the service, including strengthening relationships with community groups, reviewing the status of recommendations handed down through various reports and inquests, and address some of its internal conflicts.
“I also bring a very open leadership style. I know there are some internal struggles at the office, so I want to create that environment where people feel valued and have their say and understand their jobs and roles,” he said.
“Internally, the membership needs to understand that some of the ways of thinking, the leadership styles, can’t do that top-down, heavy-handed sort of stuff. It has to be fair, and they have to understand why we are doing certain things.”
Colin Woods, president of the Thunder Bay Police Association, said the membership was made aware a new chief was selected and welcomes the news.
“He’s bringing a lot of experience to the city,” Woods said. “He has had a lot of different operational roles within the RCMP and bringing his experience to Thunder Bay is going to help us, his background is going to help this city and community, and hopefully with some of the struggles we have had the last couple of years with policing in the city and the relationship with the community we can mend the fences and build those bridges and make them stronger.”
During the hiring process, the Thunder Bay Police Association was interviewed by the Police Services Board Governance Committee on the qualities and characteristics the membership felt the new chief should have.
“One of the points we expressed was the fact we felt it was important we have someone from outside the service become chief,” Woods said. “We needed a fresh start, a fresh face, so this was something we asked for and it’s good to see that they’ve done that."
Thunder Bay Mayor Ken Boshcoff, who also sits on the Police Services Board, is also welcoming Fleury into the role as chief of police, saying he will offer a fresh perspective on policing in the city.
“I do believe a fresh perspective, bringing other experience with other jurisdictions and other ways of doing things, is a good thing for any organization,” he said. “Certainly we know the benefits of people working their way up and when they do it from other places, then they really have earned it.”
Boshcoff added that Fleury is also providing a fresh start, which is reflective of an attitudinal shift in the city of Thunder Bay.
“With the board, the community, the council, and this new chief, I think we are well on the way to ensuring continuance of the reconciliation process,” he said. “A lot of work has bene done, really now it is a matter of ensuring the public understands that and the interest groups directly affected know that the city of Thunder Bay and its police force is sincere.”
For Nishnawbe Aski Nation deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum, who has previously called for the Thunder Bay Police Service to be dismantled, Fleury does bring a great deal of experience but he will be facing a number of challenges in his new role.
"We look forward to meeting with the chief of police and continuing the relationship. NAN has taken a very strong position in terms of the implementation of the Broken Trust report and other reports that have taken place in the last decade," Achneepineskum said. "We are going to be monitoring, evaluating, and we will see how it goes."
Achneepineskum added that she believes Fleury committed to having a strong relationship with First Nation communities in the region but there still needs to be accountability and transparency in the implementation of recommendations.
"We are going to continue to monitor and we are still in that position that if it doesn’t improve, and we have trust, we have to have trust it will improve, we will certainly continue with that position of the disbandment of the Thunder Bay Police if things do not improve. But we have faith that it will," Achneepineskum said.
Fleury will officially be named chief during a change of command ceremony on May 15, 2023.