Toronto police losing 2 highest-ranking female officers

The Toronto Police Service is losing two of its highest ranking female officers, CBC News has learned.

Deputy Chief Barbara McLean taking a secondment, Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon accepting role overseas

From left to right, Shawna Coxon, Barbara McLean and Peter Yuen, all named deputy chiefs by the Toronto Police Service in 2017. (Mark Saunders/Twitter)

The Toronto Police Service is losing two of its highest ranking female officers, CBC News has learned.

Shawna Coxon and Barbara McLean, both deputy chiefs, were appointed in August 2017 in a bid to modernize and transform the service in senior leadership roles. Peter Yuen was named a deputy chief at the same time.

McLean has been named the investigations director of the Mass Casualty Commission, the public inquiry into last year's mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people. The role is a secondment, but sources say she likely won't be returning to the Toronto Police Service.

Coxon, meanwhile, is leaving for a role with another police service in Ireland.

When McLean and Coxon were named deputy chiefs along with Yuen, the police said their appointments were part of a plan to modernize the service.

In a statement on Monday, the police said modernization is continuing.

"The chief is on record as committed to an accelerated approach to continuing the modernization of the service, which now includes the 81 recommendations put forward by the board on police reform," the statement reads.

"This continues to be a top priority and remains at full speed."

Alok Mukherjee, a former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said on Monday that modernization within the service has taken on a whole new meaning in the past year. 

Events since 2017 have prompted the Toronto Police Service to rethink its reform effort, he said.

The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the U.S., along with the Black Lives Matter movement, have put "pressure on all major police services to look at a new way of providing for community safety, of replacing police with non-police civilian resources in dealing with not only mental health, but domestic violence, youth homelessness, a whole bunch of issues," Mukherjee said.

"There is widespread feeling that we need to get policing out of those areas," he added.

Andy Pringle, another former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said at the time of the appointments in 2017 that all three, Coxon, McLean and Yuen, were excellent police leaders.

"These are three innovative and inspirational leaders who will help move the Toronto Police Service forward in a progressive way as we modernize and transform, finding ways to best serve the public and meet the expectations of our community," Pringle said.

James Ramer was named interim chief eight months ago after Mark Saunders resigned.

The board has confirmed a new police chief will be named sometime this year.


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