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First Indigenous police chief in Timmins sworn — touts bail reform

New Police Chief Lecky has spent much of his career working in Indigenous communities: 'Bail reform is an important thing that we need to work on. Because I do believe that we can do a better job. Canada can do a better job in how we deal with our clients'

TIMMINS, Ont. — There's a new leader at the helm of Timmins Police. 

Wednesday, Sydney Lecky officially received his badge for the municipal service in a change of command ceremony. He is the 17th Timmins Police Service chief and the first First Nations person to serve in the role.

Lecky replaces acting chief Denis Lavoie, the former top cop who came out of retirement in January to help out the service. The chief's position was first vacated in November when Dan Foy, who had been in the role since February 2022, suddenly retired.

After taking the oath of office, Lecky took to the podium and lightened the mood  — telling the officers in full uniform they could take off their hats. For nearly 20 minutes, he balanced that levity while also talking about the serious work ahead. 

The work includes community policing and engagement, compassion and collaboration. 

The issues the city is facing — homelessness, the opioid crisis and people coming in preying on communities, for example — are not unique to Timmins, he said. 

"Which is why I mentioned bail reform is an important thing that we need to work on. Because I do believe that we can do a better job. Canada can do a better job in how we deal with our clients," said Lecky, who is on the board of directors for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

"Sometimes you have to have a different way of approaching the issues. That's not currently something that's available in our judicial system."

Lecky comes to Timmins via the Northwest Territories, where he was with the RCMP overseeing 23 detachments. His 29-year policing career also includes serving as chief in Kamloops, Terrace and Mackenzie, British Columbia. 

Timmins, he said, isn't unlike communities he's lived in and served for. 

Lecky is a member of Peskotomuhkati First Nation and is also half Jamaican. 

The ceremony included Indigenous leaders and Elders. Before his swearing-in, there was a smudge ceremony. 

"That was the only thing I asked for. So pretty powerful medicine. And with the work that I've done in my past, my Indigenous culture, history, my family, and to honour my mother and my ancestors, to have you here was the only thing I wanted to have for today's ceremony. The rest is all gravy," said Lecky. 

Mattagami First Nation Chief Jennifer Constant talked about the importance of having the city's first First Nations chief of police.

"It's an honour for me to stand here today as a First Nations woman acknowledging the first First Nations chief of police into Timmins," said Constant in her speech.

"The significance of that is not just that you are the first, that is absolutely commendable, but when we look at the issues that Indigenous people, in general, have faced with systemic discrimination in institutions that have been tasked to ... protect different segments of society. It's an honour for us to have someone at the helm now who has lived experience and has that background and we're hoping that through that a lot of change is able to continue to happen."

Lecky has spent much of his career working in Indigenous communities. 

"I have an opportunity to continue to make a difference working with our Indigenous communities and community members who live work and play here. That was a big factor in my coming here, that I continue to be able to do that."

His vision for Timmins Police is a service that is effective and efficient, and also deeply rooted in community policing. 

"Building strong and trusting relationships with the community we serve is paramount and I pledge to foster an environment where transparency and accountability and mutual respect are the cornerstone stones of our interactions with the public," he said. 

As law enforcement faces increasingly complex issues, he said their role demands adaptability, innovation and unwavering dedication. 

"I am committed to leveraging new technologies and best practices to enhance our capabilities and to ensure that we are always a step ahead of protecting our community. Community engagement will be a top priority," he said.

"We must work hand in hand with the citizens of Timmins listening to their concerns, understanding their needs, and collaboratively developing solutions. I encourage open dialogue and active participation from all community members."

His message to the community is simple: We're hiring. 

"We're hiring and I'd like diversity reflective of our community, women, women, women. And local, if I can recruit local people, for our communities to work within our community, (there's a) greater likelihood they're gonna stick around in our community," he said. 

When news got out that Lecky was heading to Timmins, he learned that he'd crossed paths with more people from the area than he knew. 

That means that he's received some intel.

"I'm not a hunter, but I hunt fish ... and I'm not very good at it. But I like doing it. What I have been told though, is that to be on the lookout for black flies. I hear they're starting up and when they get they get drowned out eventually by mosquitoes. But I didn't know that happened in the city. So I'm not looking forward to that," he joked. 

While he admits to spending a lot of time working, he gets out to walk and bike when he can. 

"I pretend to play soccer. I still think I'm gonna make it to the major leagues someday," he joked.

Maija Hoggett is an editor/reporter for Village Media's TimminsToday.