Steve Ryan announced his retirement from the Toronto Police Service earlier this summer. He is now a full-time member of the CP24 news team where he will work as CP24's crime specialist. Sitting down with the web team, the former homicide detective opened up about the dark side of policing and what his vision is for his new role.
First a bit about yourself. Toronto knows you as the top homicide cop. But who are you behind the scenes?
I am the father of 2 children. It’s important to me to keep up a level of fitness so I work out when I can. I played hockey in the Toronto police hockey league for several years. I am also an avid golfer and a big Blue Jays fan. I also have a keen interest in politics.
What made you decide to leave your life as a homicide detective?
I spent 14 years as a homicide investigator. I was involved in several high profile investigations. I felt it was time to move on after the successful prosecution of Elaine and Everton Biddersingh. Both were charged with first-degree murder and convicted. The opportunity to become a part of the CP24 family presented itself and I was happy to accept the offer. I felt that I could use my experience in policing to provide insight and analysis to our viewers regarding crime and policing issues.
You’ve headed some of Toronto’s most notorious crime cases. Which case haunts you still?
There are certain cases/investigations that I think about often. Young women such as Stefanie Rengel, Melonie Biddersingh, Holly Jones, and Katelynn Sampson are always in my thoughts. I do not need to be reminded about them. Their images are always with me.
There are many high-profile cases that are still unsolved. Which one baffles you the most?
As a cold case investigator I was assigned to review the investigation regarding the disappearance of Nicole Morin. To this day I cannot understand how a child can disappear without a single clue for so many years.
Often, you become a big part of a family’s experience during the most traumatic time of their lives. Have you kept in touch with any of them?
Families of those who lost their loved ones to murder remain in contact with me. Many moms call me on a regular basis. I am guaranteed to receive calls on their child's birthday and the anniversay of their death. They just want to talk about their child. One of the hardest things to do is to tell them that there is no new evidence and that the investigation remains unsolved. I always take their calls and I always listen.
One time, I was in a shopping mall and the daughter of a women who was murdered approached me from behind. She tapped my right shoulder and when I turned around she hugged me and said, “thank you.” These were the first words she uttered since the death of her mother. I will never forget her or the look on her face.
Before joining homicide, you were part of the sex crimes unit. You’ve had to talk to people suspected of the most heinous crimes. Did you ever struggle with keeping your emotions about a case in check while interviewing suspects?
Taking statements from people charged with murder is very difficult. The statement only becomes evidence when the Crown proves to a judge that any such confession/admission was obtained lawfully and not induced because of things like threats or promises. It was my job to ensure during the interview that the person being interviewed was treated with dignity and respect.
But it’s hard. On many occasions I felt as though the person charged “sucked” the oxygen out of the interview room. Often, after the interview I felt as though I needed to shower.
You have two kids. Have you found your career as a police officer has had an effect on your parenting style?
Working as a homicide investigator was very rewarding. However, it has the potential to affect one’s life in many different ways. This became evident to me during a conversation I had with my daughter when she was a teen. I had just completed an investigation involving the death of a 14 year old girl. She lost her life over a dispute with another young female. My daughter made a change to her appearance which caused another student to criticize her. I immediately insisted that she return to her previous look so that she wouldn’t draw more attention to herself. She was furious with me and shouted, “Yah dad, because someone is going to kill me because they didn’t like my hair.” It was at that very point that I realized that I had allowed my work life to invade my personal life. To think, even for a brief moment, that my daughter was in harm’s way because someone criticized her hair was ridiculous!!
So now you've joined another industry. What are you most looking to accomplish at CP24?
I am looking forward to providing our viewers with insight and analysis regarding crime and policing issues and giving them a “behind” the scenes” look at what goes on during a police investigation.