There’s a new sheriff in town at 55 Division.
Barbara McLean has split her career between the administration and operations sides of the force.
McLean started out in 14 Division in the West End in 1990, followed by a stint in the marine unit. After that she shifted to the employment unit, before moving to 55 Division as a frontline supervisor and detective from 2001 to 2003, under then superintendent Allan Griffiths.
She then moved to the human resources department where she filled several roles before moving on to the police college. Last year she moved back to 14 Division before being given the role of superintendent at 55 Division two weeks ago, overseeing some 200 uniformed officers at the Coxwell and Dundas station.
“I’ve actually only worked in two divisions, I’ve just done it multiple times,” she said with a laugh.
McLean’s education has her particularly prepared for management – she has a bachelor of business administration, a masters of human resources and industrial relations, and an MBA.
Having worked in the division more than a decade ago, McLean is well positioned to see the changes in the area, as well as to recognize what hasn’t changed.
“It’s much more diverse than it was when I was here back in 2001 to 2003,” she said. “You know, if you want to see Toronto, we are definitely a reflection of that, the whole division, it’s just an amazing part of the city.”
McLean says there are several challenges she anticipates dealing with in the division, which covers the Don River to Victoria Park Avenue, and from Danforth down to the lake.
Traffic is one which she says is both an immediate concern, due to an expected increase during the Pan Am Games, but also one that is ongoing throughout the city. A new, lower speed limit on residential streets will also require educational efforts.
Property crime, such as car thefts and break and enters, are also a high priority in this otherwise safe corner of Toronto.
“I’ve been a victim of property crime, I get it,” said McLean.
She believes communication between police and citizens can help prevent some of that property crime, which remains a problem even as much of the division goes through a gentrification process.
“I’ll be making sure my officers are connecting with the community, even though the community is physically changing,” she said.
The major events in the division are also a focus of police. Fireworks on Victoria Day and Canada Day, the Beaches International Jazz Festival, the Beaches Lions Easter Parade, numerous events in Woodbine Park, and at the opposite end of the division, Taste of the Danforth all require huge amounts of police resources and manpower to ensure smooth-running, safe events.
Those events are also part of what makes Toronto great, says McLean.
“Those are all signature things that put a stamp on what the city of Toronto is,” she said.
There are also the division’s parks to keep an eye on, though McLean says trouble in parks is nothing new, as they are natural gathering places. Officers at 55 are already focused on parks and have a good idea of what goes on, where, and when, she said.
“It’s always been a focus for our officers and it always will be, particularly in our area, where we have significant parks.”
While McLean doesn’t live in the city, she said she does feel particularly attached to the East End – when she first moved to Toronto from her native Nova Scotia, she lived in several homes in or near the division, on Withrow and Chatham Avenues and Milverton Boulevard.
“So if there is a part of the city I feel connected to, it’s right here,” she said.
The big question is, will she be here long? For the past decade the superintendent’s office at 55 Division has had something of a revolving door.
“I am at the whim of the chief and the command,” said McLean. “I hope that they let me stay here for a couple of years, because it’s amazing. I can tell just being in my chair here for a week and a half that this building has a great vibe and a great energy to it, as does this community.”
“I really feel like I’ve won the lottery in terms of my assignment here.”