Protect and Serve: Deputy Chief of Police for Peel Region Brian Adams on lessons learned through a 35-year career
Peel’s Deputy Chief of Police Brian Adams first thought about a career in policing when he was a young man, and he had a very idealized vision of what it actually entailed. “I thought being a police officer meant that I would be able to just go out and solve crime all day and not have any bosses or paperwork or anything like that. So, I was very surprised later on,” he laughs. Thirty-five years later, Adams is the Officer in Charge of Operations Support Services Command and oversees four major areas servicing Peel Region, one of Canada’s largest and ever-changing communities. More than 1.4 million people live in Peel, which includes the municipalities of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon. It’s been a long journey to get there from the Constable position he once held, and over time, he’s learned a few lessons about the importance of teamwork. “You don't get anywhere in life, or even in policing, without working with good people,” says Adams. “You're not the Lone Ranger, by any stretch of the imagination. You have good people surrounding you, always.”
Growing up in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Adams was inspired to be a police officer through discussions with his grandfather, an Air Force veteran and Adam’s mentor. “My family doesn't have a big educational background. My father was an ironworker and my mother ran the house. No one from our family ever looked at post-secondary education,” he says.
After enrolling in Sheridan for Law and Security Administration, Adams found himself drawn to the practical elements of policing, especially the ride-along set up by the college with the Burlington Ontario Provincial Police that gave him a hands-on peek at his future career. “Looking back, I’m proud of Sheridan because not only is it where I'm from, but since we've also had officers over the years go to teach there, the organization I work with still plays a factor in training the officers of tomorrow. It’s been a full circle for me,” he says.
Upon graduation, Adams started working at the Peel Regional Police in 1981 as a Constable, then got his big break with a chance to move to the Morality Bureau (now called Major Drugs and Vice) and Auto Squad after two years. “That didn't happen for a lot for young officers...I was very lucky to have that opportunity and to work with officers of that level of skill,” he says. For the next 20 years, Adams would work in investigations, moving from the 11 Division Criminal Investigation Bureau Break and Enter Unit to a promotion to Detective in 1995, then another promotion in 1999 to Staff Sergeant at 22 Division, supervising uniform and Criminal Investigations platoons. Two years later, Adams assumed an Inspector role, which also led to some field support work. Although Adams loved the investigative police work elements — especially the ability to dress in comfortable street clothes — at this stage in his career, he began his shift into management positions with increasingly high-profile roles in major events.
In 2009, after becoming Superintendent and Divisional Commander at 22 Division, Adams was chosen as Incident Commander for the Peel Regional Police Incident Protection Unit – which ran security elements for Project Osage, the trial of the so-called “Toronto 18” – and the G8/G20 Summits. Adams then progressed through roles such as Commander of Field Support and Officer in Charge of the Investigative Services Branch of Operations Support Services, garnering awards including the 2013 Governor General’s Order of Merit along the way.
Today, Adams feels like he’s still honing skills gained in his years of street policing in his understanding of human nature, whether through his role as a leader or his interactions with the diverse community of Peel Region. “You’re part of a team from the day you join the job. For anyone to succeed in anything, it's based on the people around you, and it's a concerted effort,” he says. “The community needs to see and understand that they play a big role in what we do. Did I understand that when I first started? No, you're so focused on doing the job and making the arrest and doing the investigations that you don't look at the big picture. But as you get older and go up the ranks, you take a more global perspective on things.”