Toronto’s top homicide cop retires, reflects on 34 years in policing

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I guess we’ll start with the fact that you probably won’t be missing those phone calls in the middle of the night to let you know you know tragedy has struck and they need you someone has been murdered in our city how are you feeling right now that you know you’re

Coming to the end of this career yeah you know it’s uh it’s gone by uh very very quickly uh it’s been 34 years and I’ve been fortunate enough The Last 5 Years of it to be the unit commander of the homicide squads the nighttime phone calls really came when I was working as

An investor investigator on the floor between 2005 and 2018 and being on call and not being able to do anything really socially while you’re on call waiting for cuz you know your team is the next one up so the next person that gets killed in our city you you’re

You’re responsible for it why are you stepping away now I should say riding away because we know you’re an avid cyclist why are you choosing this time is it because of that number 34 35 years you just felt like so 34 years it’s it’s it’s an arbitrary number I finished my

Uh best five in the rank I’ve been the unit commander of the homicide squad for 5 years and that’s pretty unheard of yes that’s a long time uh as well usually the unit commanders are there for two maybe two and a half years at most it’s

A tough job and uh I’m I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished Over The Last 5 Years the clearance rate or percentage of homicides solved went up dramatically under your leadership now 80% we’re hearing one of the best in North America we’re also hearing used to hover around

50% sometimes I I think for some Services what do you did you do differently than when you took over you think to help a lot of that is because of the product that we put forward with the Personnel who are brought into homicide uh by myself and the management

Team and we really try and focus on not not bringing in those people who want to use it as a stepping stone to get promoted but rather bring in the people who actually want to do the work want to clear the homicides and have real addiction and passion for the work

Solving these murders and and that’s the name of the game is to solve the murders clear the murders and get the answers for the family and friends and loved ones of the victims let’s talk about trust with the community because as as a reporter and a crime reporter I used to

Hear that a lot to to help solve these cases you have you need help from the community you need help from people in the nor were you able to to build up trust with the community to help with these investigations during your tenure you know I think this what we’re doing

Right here is a big part of that and uh working with the media and with the community and really letting the community know who we are what we do and the amount of work that we put into clearing these homicides we saw it with the Bruce MacArthur investigation where

We’re able to put a lot more in front of the media for the Public’s consumption and the critics who came out immediately after MacArthur’s arrest and said the police didn’t do anything about this for the last eight years and then once all that information got out as to the

Amount of work that the divisions were putting into uh the missing person’s investigations and ultimately being able to capture MacArthur uh the same critics would come and say say can’t believe how much work you guys did over the years thank you very much right and really allowing the

Media behind the scenes and some show them the process and I’m sure you remember the one day when we were Excavating behind mallerie Crescent and I brought the TV cameras down to film what was going on and you literally have police officers hanging by ropes in a

Ravine digging yeah digging by hand for body parts wow and it’s such an impressive site and putting that out there I took a lot of flak internally uh internally and from some media Outlets uh but that was very shortlived right because of the positive spin the public

Could see what was going on that work was being done what other changes you think you’ve seen over the decades I feel like the way police officers are looked at in society has changed like it has for many professions including journalism but I mean and the culture of

Policing has changed When We Were Young it was coffee and donuts now I hear it’s carrot juice and muffins right so you’ve changed but you’ve seen some what kind of changes have you seen in your career I think the realization that uh PTSD and um the effects of the job the

Shift work the effects of the job really affect individual police officers and the ability to recognize that at the outset and address it at the outset so you can guide these young officers into Healthy Lifestyles and we’ve talked about biking um at least two or three

Times a year somebody in my office comes to me and says you know can you set me up with a bike and I set them up with a bike and maybe a a bike trainer and some of them stay with it and some of them

Don’t and I know it helps to clear my head when I get on the bike so you need an outlet like whether it’s biking or running or basketb uh you need an outlet like that you have to eat healthily and not rely on the coffee the donuts the booze uh it’s a

Tough job a lot of people do rely on those things yeah in the past thank you for your time today and thank you for your service thanks for having me T appreciate it

After more than three decades with the Toronto Police Service, the head of the homicide unit is stepping down. Insp. Hank Idsinga has received multiple awards and led investigations into some of the city’s most notorious killers, including Bruce McArthur. CBC Toronto News at 6 host Dwight Drummond spoke to Idsinga about his career in crime.

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