Canada’s first Black police chief serving to Guelph police

Devon Clunis, who has over 35 years experience will be working with the service in a number of key areas over the coming months

Some high level help for the Guelph Police Service.

Internationally renowned police executive Devon Clunis will be working with the service in a number of key areas in the coming months. Clunis was introduced during the Guelph Police Service Board meeting Thursday.

Police chief Gord Cobey said this includes community engagement, leadership and executive development, looking into increased cultural understanding in equity, diversity and inclusion and helping to develop the service’s next strategic plan.

Cobey said they’ve had many discussions about how to grow the police service.

“The reality is our city is growing at a very rapid pace, and our service must continue to grow and evolve as we seek to provide the best service possible for citizens,” he said.

He’s hoping Clunis can provide some of that guidance.

Clunis has a very extensive resume in his over 35 years in policing.

He was with Winnipeg’s service for 29 of those years, promoted to chief in 2012, becoming Canada’s first Black police chief in the process.

Cobey said Clunis led Winnipeg’s service through a “transformative change,” transitioning from a reactive enforcement model to a community health centred model.

He has also worked as an International policing consultant, and was a leading voice on a community centred collaborative approach on the future of policing, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020.

At the time, Clunis said he felt Canada and the United States was on a good path in terms of police and community relationships.

“I watched that event in my living room, and I literally shed tears,” he said. “Tears as a Black person, yes. I shed tears as a police officer, but I also shed tears just as a human being.”

He said he didn’t like the division that came about with police, the community, people of colour and others. Clunis said he spoke out to help try and rebuild that relationship, and got calls from as far as Australia and Germany.

Most recently, Clunis was Ontario’s first-ever inspector general of policing before he retired from the role in January and went back into the International consulting world.

During his 18 months in the role, Clunis said he met with every police chief and command staff across the province, and was blown away when he met Cobey and his staff.

“I worked with chiefs all across North America, but I felt that (Cobey) had the right mindset,” he said. “A visionary leader who is actually speaking about the issues that I thought were really important way back in 2012 when I took over in Winnipeg, and the things that I really think were critical to move us forward collectively.

Clunis said he maintained a strong relationship with Cobey throughout.

“In your very own backyard and the work that you’re doing in the city, it is exemplary,” he said.

Clunis said he hopes to shine a spotlight on the work being done by Guelph police, and “let that be an example to the world.”

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