Monday’s appointment of York Regional Police Deputy Chief Thomas Carrique as the new OPP commissioner “couldn’t happen to a nicer guy”, the local force’s association president said.
“I’ve known Tom for the 29 years he’s worked with York Regional Police, and Tom’s personality is such that he’s going to go in there and go right to work at achieving the OPP’s goals as a police service,” York Regional Police Association president Todd Sepkowski said.
The Ontario government’s appointment of a new OPP boss has been mired in controversy since the post was vacated in November 2018 by retiring chief Vince Hawkes.
A storm of criticism blew up later in November when the Ford government announced longtime Toronto Police Service Supt. Ron Taverner, reported to be a friend of Doug Ford, as its top pick for the head of the OPP.
Nearly three months of fallout from the Taverner appointment ensued, which included Taverner himself withdrawing his name last Wednesday, an investigation launched by Ontario’s Office of the Integrity Commissioner, and the March 4 ousting of vocal critic and OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair.
In a March 11 statement on Carrique’s appointment, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said: "Deputy Chief Carrique will help bring an outside vision to the OPP and work with talented officers and civilian staff to bring forward positive change.
"The Ontario Provincial Police has been without a permanent commissioner since Nov. 2, 2018. The rank-and-file deserve certainty and clarity. Deputy Chief Carrique will be a strong voice for the frontline officers we all depend on to keep our communities safe," Jones stated. "Deputy Chief Carrique's extensive experience is important as the OPP works to tackle challenging files such as human trafficking and the ongoing fight against guns and gangs."
Sepkowski, himself an almost 33-year veteran with York police, said he came up through the ranks with Carrique and worked with him both on the frontlines of policing, as well as in his role as the head of the labour organization that represents more than 2,200 uniformed officers and 620 civilian members of the service.
“I think the police service and politics are two different beds and I think Tom will keep it that way,” Sepkowski said. “It’s been a pleasure working with Tom and we’re sad to see him go, it’s too bad for York. But I think the OPP have a good person. I wish him all the best and I know that the women and men on the frontlines will be pleased.”
At a news conference Monday morning at York Regional Police’s Aurora headquarters, Carrique choked up with emotion as he called the force “one of the finest police services in this country”.
“I can tell you that no one is more surprised that I’m standing before you today with this announcement,” Carrique said. “York Regional Police has been my home, my passion and my family for 29 years. ...I hope to benefit from my experience here in my new role. I have learned a great deal from some of York Regional Police’s top leaders and the extremely dedicated sworn and civilian staff.”
Carrique said that he didn’t apply for the job and was surprised when contacted by Community Safety Deputy Minister Mario Di Tommaso.
In response to questions about Tavener’s controversial appointment and relationship with the Ford family, Carrique said he doesn’t have a relationship with the Ford family and, in fact, hasn’t met Premier Doug Ford.
York police Chief Eric Jolliffe said Carrique's appointment is "a significant loss" to the local force and community.
“York Regional Police is proud that Deputy Carrique’s experience, talent and dedication has been recognized by the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Sylvia Jones, and the Government of Ontario, as he assumes this prestigious and challenging position,” said Chief Jolliffe.
“However, we recognize as well this is a significant loss for our organization, our community and the members of York Regional Police who have, for almost 30 years, benefited from Tom’s extensive knowledge, dedication to community, stellar leadership qualities and unwavering integrity.”
Carrique begins a three-year appointment as the OPP’s top boss April 8, based out of provincial police headquarters in Orillia.
Since joining the York force in 1990, Carrique has worked in a variety of roles, including most recently on the executive command team as deputy chief of investigations and support. Over nearly three decades, the veteran officer has also worked on uniform patrol, criminal investigations, investigative services, traffic, and also served as the Organized Crime Bureau’s officer in charge and as a Special Investigation Unit liaison officer.
According to the York police website, Carrique is a gold medallist at the Canadian Police Olympics and member of the Canadian Police Memorial Ride to Remember team.
He also served for six years as a governor on the Seneca College board and is currently the vice-chairperson of the St. John Ambulance - York Region Branch, including serving as its community services committee chairperson.
Carrique currently is co-chairperson of the Canadian Association Chiefs of Police organized crime committee and is a member of the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario’s governing body.
He is the recipient of the Ontario Premier's Award of Excellence for Fighting Crime, the Governor General's Police Exemplary Service Medal, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal. He has also been appointed by the Governor General of Canada as a Member of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces and a Member (SBStJ) of the Order of St. John.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor has worked closely with Carrique over the years and said he a “great guy who is held at the highest regard by everybody who works with him”.
“He is a highly valued and respected leader of York police and he’ll be missed here in York Region, but the OPP is fortunate to have him and he will undoubtedly continue to contribute to the province as he did here in York Region,” Taylor said.
“Tom’s been an outstanding deputy chief and it is, once again, a demonstration of the ability of York Region to help support and grow phenomenal leaders that are often sought by other jurisdictions.”