Jamaica-born Devon Clunis is the chief of police of one of Canada’s largest cities. Committed to diversity in leadership, Manitoba’s largest city in one of Canada’s 10 provinces named the immigrant Caribbean national head of Winnipeg’s security forces to decide police behavior in Manitoba’s capital city.
In naming the history-making police chief, Mayor Sam Katz described Clunis to be of “uncompromising character as a member of the Winnipeg Police Service.”
“I welcome his appointment to this very important role,” he added.
Despite the fact, Winnipeg’s Black population is merely 1.67 percent, and only 1,465 immigrants from Guyana and Jamaicans represent a lesser amount of 1,435, the city of more than one million named Clunis the first Black police chief.
“I applied to become a police officer simply because I wanted to make a difference,” 48-year-old Clunis said.
He explained that he “applied for the chief position because I thought it was really important that the person taking over should have a great understanding of our organization and the city instead of just simply wanting to be chief.”
A resident of Winnipeg since migrating there at age 12, he added “I am passionate about the City of Winnipeg and over the course of my career I have been given great opportunities to help lead the organization.”
He joined the force in 1987 and at the time felt he wanted to improve the image of Blacks who are perceived perpetrators rather than law enforcers. His rise through the ranks positioned him as a patrol officer and also placed him in numerous positions working with departments specializing in traffic, plainclothes investigation, community relations, organizational development and city-wide operational command.
“Every position for which I have applied was done simply because I felt there was a need to serve the organization and our citizens.”
His last position as superintendent before taking the helm of the Winnipeg Police Service two years ago enabled him to supervise a four-division development support branch. The 27-year veteran is also the police service chaplain.
On his appointment Clunis said during his tenure he wants to focus on crime prevention. He explained that he intends to improve relations between the police and the community while tackling the root causes of crime.
“Those include poverty, poor living conditions, alcohol and drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, a lack of parenting skills and education. These aren’t traditional police issues but we must become a catalyst to change our city,” Clunis added.
Phil Sheegl, Winnipeg’s chief administrative officer said Clunis distinguished himself the best candidate and the city’s 17th police chief after a nation-wide search that included comprehensive screenings and a thorough interview process.
“He’s a person of strong leadership credentials, great dedication to building a very strong team and he has a real love for the city,” Sheegl said.
“I know that his vision, experience, relationship-building skills and strategic thinking will enable the service to help make Winnipeg an even better place to live.”
Since the announcement was made numerous fraternal organizers have offered complimentary statements to the new police chief.
Jim Gunnoiki, Afro-Caribbean Association of Manitoba president said he is confident Clunis will be a capable and efficient leader.
“He’s community-oriented, very experienced and qualified for the role,” Gunnoiki reportedly explained.
“I have no doubt that he and his team will be successful in effectively policing the city and building new relationships.”
David Mitchell, Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) founding president said he welcomed the appointment.
“In the 20-year history of ABLE, I have seen significant change as Black officers attain leadership positions in law enforcement agencies,” Mitchell said.
The regional director in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services added: “It is truly inspirational to see that the office of Chief of Police in this country is beginning to be reflective of the diversity that makes up Canada. While we are delighted and inspired by Devon’s achievement, we continue to monitor the glacial pace of progress that Black women in law enforcement appear to be making in municipal, provincial and federal agencies.”