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Steve Reesor

Deputy police chief to leave the force for position at Magna

Steven Reesor

After 30 years of service, Toronto Police's Deputy Chief Steven Reesor announced his retirement yesterday.

The 51-year-old will join Magna International, the Aurora-based car-parts giant, in April as an executive.

Deputy Chief Reesor would not comment on the new job, but he leaves behind a salary of more than $150,000 and nine years experience as deputy chief.

He is best known for being the lead homicide investigator in the 1990 slaying of Elizabeth Bain, which led to the wrongful 1992 second-degree murder conviction and life imprisonment of her boyfriend, Robert Baltovich.

In December, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Mr. Baltovich a new trial.

Deputy Chief Reesor rose quickly through the ranks of the force, from a generalist constable in 1975 to a constable in the elite Special Weapons Team and Emergency Task Force in 1978. By 1983, he was a detective constable and in 1985 joined homicide as an inspector.

His appointment to deputy chief at age 42 in 1995 made him the youngest at that rank in the history of the force.

"I've enjoyed every minute of the last 30 years working in policing, every job I've been assigned to," Deputy Chief Reesor said in an interview last night. "When I was in homicide, I had three separate cases where we arrested people for murder where we did not have a body and I found that quite a challenge to gather the evidence and make sure we were able to prosecute successfully in most cases, which is a difficult thing to do."

In the Robert Baltovich case it must have been especially more of "a difficult thing to do" since Baltovich was innocent --

Deputy Chief Reesor, who has an MBA from the University of Toronto, said the shift to Magna is in keeping with his interest in business. Active in amateur sports, he plays rugby and hockey and is a marathon runner. He said he has no plans to slow down and his next role, which he said he is not at liberty to discuss, will be "every bit as demanding as what I've been doing."

In 1998, he was named in an investigation concerning the private sale of a weapon. Nothing criminal was ever alleged. He was disciplined for making a careless transaction. After considerable press and inquiry, he was cleared of any wrongdoing and reinstated as the head of gun and property units.

The father of four will take a few months off between his retirement from the force and starting the job at Magna.

Deputy Chief Reesor offered the following advice to young constables looking to climb the ladder: "Policing is an interesting career. Come in every day and do a hard day's work and enjoy what you're doing. Do the best you can at what you're doing and if there is an opportunity, take advantage of every opportunity that comes along."

Toronto Mayor David Miller called Deputy Chief Reesor "thoroughly professional. He's a very focused, bright, articulate police officer."

The mayor said he thinks the two have played rugby against one another in the past, though neither knew each other at the time. "I have to commend him because he's still playing and I am not, but I was equally as hard-nosed and determined as he was."

Deputy police chief leaving for Magna job
Reesor following chief's departure

New leadership due by spring

The final member of the Toronto police force's current upper management announced his impending departure yesterday, signalling the eve of new leadership for the force's 7,000 members.

Deputy Chief Steven Reesor said he's decided to retire, take the force's full pension plan and start a second career. He is taking an executive position at Magna International in April.

Reesor had been among suspected frontrunners to replace Chief Julian Fantino, whose contract with the police services board ends in early March.

While Reesor said he had been considering that option, an "extremely attractive opportunity" at the auto-parts giant was offered that he couldn't turn down.

"This offer came up and now's the time it was being offered. Who knows what would happen in the chief's competition?" said Reesor, who at only 51 has already served 30 years with the force.

Fantino, who has worked closely with Reesor for the past five years and considers him "very loyal," described him as a detail man.

"He's a real problem-solver," the chief said. "It's going to be difficult to replace that kind of experience, knowledge and intellect."

Reesor catapulted to the second-in-command position about nine years ago when he was only 42, making him the youngest deputy chief in the force's history.

He started his career at 21, after dropping out of the undergraduate business program at York University.

"I decided I didn't want to work for a large corporation making them money," he said. "I went through the (police) training and I never looked back. I felt I was a fish in water."

He was quickly promoted through the ranks, working as a special weapons constable in the emergency task force, a division detective, a crack homicide detective, a staff inspector of the force's internal audit division, and finally, before being promoted to deputy chief, a staff inspector of Etobicoke's 23 Division.

His recorded salary in 2003 was $187,000.

Robert Baltovich

As a homicide detective, Reesor led the team that sent Robert Baltovich (right) to prison for life in the 1990 death of University of Toronto student Elizabeth Bain. The Ontario Appeal Court recently ordered a new trial of the case after new evidence was provided.

In 1998, Reesor admitted to selling a personal firearm through the force's gun unit to another officer: an illegal offence for a police officer. He was "counselled" by then chief David Boothby.

Around police headquarters Reesor is considered astute, the force's best manager.

Those skills will be easily translated to the corporate sector, Reesor said. As will his MBA, which he managed to complete at night while working as a homicide detective.

Toronto Police Services Board chair Pam McConnell said the force will miss Reesor's leadership.

"I wish him all the best. He's given the police service 30 years of his life. I think we should say thank you."

Reesor follows both former deputy chief Mike Boyd, who retired last November after 35 years with the Toronto service and still hasn't been replaced, and Fantino, who lost a bid for a new contract last summer.

The board has hired a professional headhunter to help find Fantino's replacement by March 5.

Once Reesor leaves in April, it will mark a new leadership phase for the force. But he doesn't see that as a difficult transition.

"They've got a lot of excellent people," Reesor said. "The police service has continually had change over the years at the senior management rank.... They don't rely on two to three people at the top."