The new unit commander of 12 Division, Acting Supt. Douglas Quan, has an untimely connection to the station.
It was 1994 and Quan was working in the drug squad as an undercover officer in the apartment buildings on Trethewey Drive. That same year, Const. Todd Baylis of 12 Division was fatally shot after trying to arrest a suspect who was wanted for drug trafficking, and carrying a large amount of cocaine and a 9mm handgun.
The shooting happened in the same building where Quan was stationed.
“In a sad way it’s a tie, for me, to 12 Division,” said Quan. “And to come back and be unit commander is sort of like a full circle.”
Quan is just over a month into his new role and has already implemented a few changes, which include improving the lines of communication through all chains of command, seeking more accountability toward managers about knowing where their officers are at all times, and looking to give more feedback to the community.
“Policing has traditionally been a culture where we keep our cards close to our chest,” said Quan. “But I’m finding if we put more information out there we get more back.”
As unit commander, Quan’s role calls for more administrative duties than he’s used to. Quan grew up exposed to the police force; his father was an auxiliary sergeant and his older sister was an Royal Canadian Mounted Police member.
“I thought I’d give it a try and here I am 29 years later,” he said.
With almost three decades of experience, Quan has worked as a detective and undercover officer for most of his policing career. His first placement was at 51 Division in Regent Park and from there he joined the drug squad for about six years.
“It was great. Fast-paced and exciting,” said Quan. “That was really in the heydays with the influx of crack cocaine that came in, in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Very, very busy times. You’re dealing with hundreds of arrests a year and hundreds of search warrants.”
He admitted that undercover work was often nerve-wracking, but that was all part of the process. And so is doing your homework.
“Sometimes you get asked, ‘Who do you know, where did you come from?’ and you got to have the right answers,” said Quan.
“Sometimes you’ve got luck on your side and sometimes things happen for you. But other times you got to work for it. That’s the nature of undercover work. You got to think on your feet.”
Quan moved on to the hold up squad, which dealt with retail robberies and armed robberies, for another six years and was then promoted to the rank of sergeant at 31 Division in North York, which includes the Jane Street and Finch Avenue community. In 2001 he became one of the founding members of the gun and gang unit now officially called the Integrated Gun and Task Force.
“I think having worked in so many divisions gives you a true perspective of the City of Toronto,” said Quan.
“I’ve seen it from a complex investigative role but I’ve also seen it from the frontline position, too. To be a supervisor and a constable on the road in those positions you bump into people in the best and the worst circumstances.”
By 2008, he was promoted to inspector and worked at police headquarters downtown. By 2012, just before Quan became the unit commander at the 12 Division station, at 200 Trethewey Dr., he held the same position at the 13 Division station located at 1435 Eglinton Ave. W. near Allen Road.
According to Quan, there are a variety of overlapping issues in the neighboring division, such as higher gun violence compared to other areas of Toronto, a problem he’d “like to see reduced drastically.”
Another quandary is consistency: “In our Toronto Police head office we have a lot of officers that are retiring. So we have a lot of turnover in the upper ranks. I’m sure I’m about the fifth commander here in five years,” said Quan.
“There’s been a lot of change. I hope to be here for a few years so I can lay down some roots here so they (the community) don’t feel the turnover, because it does comeback and I do hear that quite frequently.”
The reason for the inconsistency, according to Quan, is the various cost-cutting measures the force has implemented over the past few years.
But despite that, Quan hasn’t lost focus of putting his own “personal stamp on things.” This includes keeping an open line of communication with the community about the good and the bad that’s happening in the area.
“We’re going to try to be more communicative about our success and issues of crime, and where we need help,” said Quan.
He’s looking for help from the community, too.
“I’m a firm believer in a thousand eyes are better than two,” said Quan. “Community health in general and open doors of communication is key.”