Ontario has a new provincial police commissioner, just five days after a friend of the premier’s withdrew from the job.
Thomas Carrique, currently the deputy chief for York Regional Police, was announced Monday as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Carrique has been appointed to a three-year term starting April 8.
The deputy police chief has spent his entire 29-year career with the York police and has worked in uniform patrol, criminal investigations, investigative services, traffic, marine, public order and the administration and operations branches.
“York Regional Police has been my home, my passion, and my family for 29 years,” an emotional Carrique said at a midday news conference at York police headquarters.
Carrique said he is “deeply honoured” and “grateful” for the appointment, adding that his focus will be on combating guns and gangs, illicit trafficking of illegal drugs and human trafficking, as well as and traffic safety.
“I will work hard each and every day to earn the trust and confidence of the members of the OPP and the citizens of this province,” he said.
Carrique said a police leader is responsible for the “safety and well-being of the officers who put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and safe guard our communities.”
And only once we have been able to ensure that our officers are safe can they ensure that our citizens are safe and secure.”
Carrique said he initially didn’t apply for the job but was approached last week by the Community Safety deputy minister Mario Di Tommaso after Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner withdrew his name from consideration as OPP commissioner.
When asked if he has the connection to the Ford family, Carrique said, “I have no relationship whatsoever with the premier or the Ford family.” He also said he has never met Premier Doug Ford before.
On Wednesday, Taverner withdrew after his appointment to the job touched off months of controversy and triggered an integrity commissioner investigation. Taverner had delayed his appointment while the investigation is ongoing.
Taverner, 72, is a family friend of Ford and initially did not meet the criteria listed for the commissioner position. The government has admitted it lowered the requirements to attract a wider range of candidates.
Though Taverner has returned to his Toronto police job — having rescinded his initial resignation — and a new OPP commissioner has been named, it’s unlikely the controversy will quickly fade away.
The integrity commissioner’s report is still due, a court case is pending over whether the ombudsman should be forced to investigate, the NDP has called for a public inquiry, and a former deputy OPP commissioner alleges he was fired as reprisal for speaking out against Taverner’s appointment.
Ford has previously described the job of OPP commissioner as a “political appointment,” but maintains his office was not involved in Taverner’s selection beyond taking part in the initial recruitment planning process. He also signed off on the official government document appointing Taverner after a hiring committee made the selection.
One of the people on that hiring committee was Di Tommaso, deputy minister of community safety, who ended up personally firing deputy OPP commissioner Brad Blair, who has waged a legal battle over Taverner’s appointment.
Blair alleges that was a conflict of interest for Di Tommaso, since he is a subject of the legal battle. Di Tommaso is also Taverner’s former boss.