Outgoing Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu is keeping tight-lipped about plans for the future.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” he said at a January 23 press conference. “Other than some time off, I don’t know what the future entails. I didn’t want to be actively looking for the next step while I’m serving as police chief. I wanted to be focused on my role, policing the city with impartial decision making. But now that I’m leaving, I guess I’ll have to look around a bit more.”
With a federal election expected as early as the spring, Chu, who had announced his retirement just a few hours earlier, was repeatedly asked if he was considering running for public office.
“I’ve had many political approaches over the years, and my standard answer has been, ‘My job is serving as Vancouver police chief, and so I decline the opportunity,’” he said. “I think I will be saying the same thing until I’m not the Vancouver police chief anymore.”
Asked point blank, "So you're not saying no?", Chu moved on to a reporter with a question on a different topic.
Chu also denied he has plans to continue his policing career in Toronto.
“I don’t have any interest in other positions right now,” he said. “Whatever happens in the future, I’m sure you’re all going to find out.”
Speaking earlier in the morning, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said Chu had given the police board some time to find a new chief.
“We’re hoping to have that work done by the spring time,” he said. “We have some grace period here with the chief, who will be here in the meantime….No deadline, but we’re shooting for the spring time.”
Asked why he was retiring now, Chu noted he is the last of his academy class still serving with a police force. He also revealed there are some “timing issues” related to talent within his department.
“I’ve always told the people I was going to stay between five and 10 years,” he said. “I also have a concern that some senior executives in this organization may leave for other jobs. And I want them to have an opportunity to lead this organization.”
Chu declined to supply names for a potential successor. He noted that the police board would be looking nationally, but hinted he would like to see the hire come from within his department.
Robertson said Chu’s departure would leave big shoes to fill. He praised the VPD’s performance in recent years, noting there have been impressive reductions in homicides as well as less serious crimes.
The mayor also acknowledged challenges that Chu has faced, including the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, the city hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, and policing protests in ways that ensure the respect of free speech. (Notably absent from Robertson’s list was a mention of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot.)
Describing some of his own accomplishments, Chu talked about how he brought diversity to the force and also increased female representation across the department.
“We’re sitting at about 23 percent female, which is, I think, the highest among major city police agencies in Canada,” he said. “In our leadership ranks, we’ve gone from two female inspectors in 2007 to seven right now.”
Asked what he felt he was leaving unfinished, Chu said there was still more progress to be made on mental health.
“There is definitely more to do in that area,” he emphasized. “That’s something the mayor and I will continue to work on for the next three or four months.”