Fulfilling His Dream in Policing

Homicide and Missing Persons Unit
Policing was Leslie Dunkley’s dream job and he never lost sight of the goal, no matter how unattainable it seemed at times.

At a very young age, he aspired to follow the path of his late father who was a cop in Jamaica.

“There was something about that uniform that stood out for me, besides my dad wearing it well,” said Dunkley, who was just six years old when his family migrated to Canada in 1973. “Everything I did since I came here was geared towards a career in policing.”

After two years at Ryerson pursuing Office Administrative Studies, he jumped at the opportunity to apply to the Toronto Police Service (TPS).

“I wanted to join the Cadet program straight out of high school, but that didn’t work out,” said Dunkley who completed high school at West Toronto. “That’s why I went back to school to bide my time. When I learned TPS was hiring, I submitted my application.”

Retired Staff Sergeant Balmain Jones, who died in March 2018, was assigned to the Employment Office at the time.

“I felt inspired from the moment I walked in and saw this Black officer,” noted Dunkley. “The process took about five months from the time I applied to when I was hired. I kept calling and talking to him about my file.”

Starting at 31 Division Primary Response Unit, he was also stationed at 32 and 12 Divisions, the Employment Unit, 52 Division in the Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Community Response Unit before being promoted to Sergeant in 2004 and returning to 12 Division for a year and then back to 52.

Dunkley joined the Homicide Unit in 2011.

“That was really where I wanted to be in policing,” he said. “I was very inspired by the investigative side of the job.”

He along with Unit Commander Inspector Hank Idsinga and Detective Sergeant Terry Browne, who was in his graduating class, are Homicide’s longest serving members.

Dunkley and Tiffany Castell, who were both promoted to Detective Sergeants in June 2021, are the only Black homicide officers.

Working in the specialized unit has been satisfying and rewarding for the veteran cop.

“I have gained valuable experience developing my communication and interpersonal skills while acknowledging the expertise of others, practicing active listening, being empathetic and always controlling my emotions,” Dunkley said. “My commitment and dedication in this role have allowed me to learn from my lived experiences and be able to share my knowledge and experience with others.”

In the last decade, he has investigated over a hundred homicides.

“Each case is a learning experience and I take nothing for granted,” said Dunkley, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in 2009. “I always try to lead by example and continue to learn. Our Service has excellent resources in all areas and I try to take full advantage of that.”

The most difficult part of the job, he pointed out, is the next of kin notification.

“It’s unpredictable how families will react to losing a loved one, so I have to always be prepared for anything,” Dunkley noted. “I stay motivated, knowing that I can bring some comfort to families during this difficult time.”

While satisfied with closing many cases, there are still a few unsolved that he revisits, searching for a lead that would unravel the case.

“Every one that you don’t solve bothers you, but there were a couple that really stand out,” he said.

A few months after Dunkley joined Homicide, Leonard Fullerton was gunned down in the Weston-Mount Dennis neighbourhood after walking away from a man with whom he had an argument.

The deceased’s father, Leaforth Fullerton, was a Toronto Police Parking Enforcement officer.

“This was a public execution of a human being who was gunned down on a street corner in the presence of innocent civilians and adjacent to an occupied children’s daycare centre,” Dunkley said. “That one still bothers me because the father showed up at the scene. It was just so sad.”

He also thinks often about the murder of 26-year-old Kiesingar Gunn was shot to death in front of the Forty2 Supperclub in Liberty Village six years ago.

He and family members left the club and got into his vehicle that was parked on Mowat Ave. As Kiesingar was driving away, he witnessed a group involved in a verbal and physical altercation in the parking lot. Recognizing that one of the persons involved was a friend who was at the party, he got out of his vehicle and walked towards the group involved in the altercation. The young man was shot and killed as he attempted to intervene.

In 2019, police extended a $50,000 reward with the hope of finding who was responsible for the fatal shooting.

Another unsolved case, in which Browne was the lead investigator, still bothers Dunkley who is passionate about community safety.

In December 2015, Joel Alexander was shot while sitting in a parked vehicle near Peter St. and King St. W. He succumbed to his injuries and the case remains unsolved.

Alexander’s father, Kolin Alexander, is a Staff Sergeant with York Regional Police.

“I have known Kolin since age 15 when we joined Air Cadets at the same time,” Dunkley said. “I met him on a TTC bus and we have been close friends ever since. He wanted to be a police officer and I mentored him.”

Policing, said Dunkley, is one of the most rewarding careers and a great opportunity for young people to give back to their community.

Two of his four children, Jordan and Justice, are TPS civilian members assigned to the Missing Persons and Records Units, respectively.

In addition, Dunkley’ sister – Juliet Butler – is a clerk with Forensic Identification Services and his wife of 29 years is a civilian with the Peel Regional Police Service.

In his 34th year with the Service, he’s encouraged by the Service’s commitment to equity and diversity.

“You see it in all ranks and we now have two Black Detective Sergeants at Homicide, which is a first,” said Dunkley. “Black History Month is a time to reflect on the past and be encouraged for the future. We have to continue to make inroads by our actions and commitment to the goals of our Service and by fulfilling the expectations of the community we serve.”

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