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Retired Toronto Police Chief Randy Henry Reflects on Long Career

Randy Henry recently put in his last day as Toronto’s police chief after serving in the city’s police department for 41 years, 10 of them as chief. (Photo by Warren Scott)

As he reflected on 41 years in the Toronto police department, including 10 as its chief, Randy Henry noted law enforcement wasn’t a field he had originally set out to pursue.

But, he added, it’s a job with its ups and downs that he’s glad to have held.

Henry said he had been a year out of high school and working at Colliers Steel in a tool and dye apprenticeship in 1979 when his father, Rod, asked him to run the Dairy Isle ice cream shop he had recently bought.

He noted it was common for local police to escort business owners and managers to the bank for periodic deposits and for businesses to provide free food to the officers as a thank you for their service.

“I’d feed them and chat with them and got interested in working for the police department,” Henry recalled.

He said the ability to interact with residents and see the community on a daily basis and not be confined to a desk for an entire day appealed to him.

Public service wasn’t new to him. He also was a volunteer member of the city’s fire department and continued to serve there for 30 years.

To obtain training hours required for state police certification, he received instruction qualifying him to serve as an emergency medical technician for the Toronto Emergency Medical Service for four years.

Henry said the ambulance service, which started with volunteers like himself, “has been a godsend” to the community, but it’s important for law enforcement officers to be prepared to give basic medical aid as they often are the first to arrive at an emergency.

“All of us every year are recertified in CPR and first aid,” he said.

Henry said many things in law enforcement have changed over the years. He noted when he started, rookie officers underwent training at night while performing their new jobs during the day.

Henry said he started with former Toronto Police Capt. Rick Parker, who has gone on to serve the Cross Creek Township Police Department, and Mike Bauman, who retired last year. He calls Capt. Charlie Daniels, who was appointed by Mayor John Parker to follow him as chief, “the oldest of the young ones” in the department.

“He’ll do a good job. He’s been around,” Henry said of his successor.

Over the years Henry worked under three chiefs — Paul Foringer, Paul McCarthy and Danny Mosti. Each had their own style of leadership but each had worked their way up in the department, he noted.

Henry said when he started, Foringer told him, “You’re never going to get rich and famous in this job, but it’s a good service.”

He said the amount of recordkeeping required of officers has increased significantly and it’s fortunate they now can complete reports using a computer in their cruisers.

Henry said when he started, the city’s population was about 9,000 and there were many more bars, which unfortunately resulted in more bar fights to break up.

Asked about crime today, he said, “The drug thing is the worst. They want to get high and to do it, they’ve got to get money.”

Henry attributes the problem to a rise in shoplifting.

But he said bringing news of a death from a car accident or other mishap to the victim’s family was the most unpleasant aspect of his job.

“The worst part of this job was delivering death notices. I hated, hated it,” Henry said.

He said he will continue to serve as the city’s building inspector on a part-time basis and on the Toronto Board of Education, for which he is president and representative to the Jefferson County Vocational School Board.

Henry said he and his wife, a nurse in East Liverpool, are looking forward to spending more time with their family.

“Years ago, we talked about moving to the beach, but we have grandkids here so we’re not going to leave them,” he said.

Henry said he’s enjoyed serving fellow residents of his hometown.

He noted many joke that there are no secrets in a small town, and that may be true of Toronto, but its citizens also look out for each other.

“When times are tough, people come together. They care about one another,” Henry said.

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