Toronto mourns legendary cop Bruce ‘Warpo’ Ward

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The death of retired 51 Division detective Bruce Ward has prompted an outpouring of affection and respect from colleagues all over the city.

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Ward, 66, was a well-known and hugely respected officer in Toronto.

His death on June 29 was announced on social media; his family has requested privacy at this time and formal notice has not yet been made.

Ward was an exemplary police officer equipped with a Herculean work ethic and a terrific sense of humour.

He was known to have a photographic memory for every detail of police work, and was often sought out by homicide detectives and others for help on the toughest cases. His uncanny ability to recall times, dates, addresses, and eyewitness details, as well as every other sort of minutiae about any case was just one of the talents that prompt others to describe Ward aslegendary.”

According to all who knew him, Ward was unfailingly professional and honest, traits that earned him the respect of everyone he encountered, including judges, lawyers — on both sides — and everyone else in the judicial system.

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Craig Bromell, who was president of the Toronto Police Association from 1997-2003), was Ward’s partner for some time at 51 Division.  In a recent interview, Bromell described Ward as a man who was 110% committed to the city and the people he served.

They worked together at a time in the 1980s and ’90s when Toronto was in the grips of a crack epidemic. The old 51 Division building was at 31 Regent Street, a spot nicknamed “Fort Apache” and since demolished as part of the gentrification of Regent Park.

In those mean streets days, their turf was Moss Park, Regent Park and St. Jamestown, areas notorious for poverty and crime.

“We worked where people really needed the police, and he was very sympathetic to the people in those communities,” said Bromell.

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“We worked major crime together. We were making more arrests than the drug squad. It was violent and difficult work.”

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Bromell lauded Ward’s worth ethic, his attitude, and his empathy.

“He’d always offer help to the addicts we arrested. He was a leader for that — he never wasted an opportunity to try to help someone. He was always ready to offer second chances,” Bromell said.

Ward was also respected as a mentor, teacher and coach to new officers, “many of whom are chiefs of police today,” said Bromell.

And he was a skilled musician.

Ward had been fighting cancer for the last few years, said his former partner. “And was just as brave about it as when he was working the streets.”

Still, Ward’sdeath was unexpected. And a terrible loss to the city, said Bromell.

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Ward and his efforts for the city he loved were often written up in this newspaper. He became known to all of Toronto in 1993 when he was stabbed in the back during a drug arrest and nearly died.

Ward was 38 when that happened. It took months for him to come back from the injury and years after that to fully recover, but he did it, working inside as a uniformed officer as long as necessary until he was able to return to undercover duty.

Ward retired in 2011 after 37 years on the job. At the time, he was described by Det.-Sgt. Dean Burks (now retired), who was then in charge of special units at 51 Division, as a living legend.

“He is without a doubt the best street cop I’ve ever met,” said Burks.

“He still brings in more arrests than anyone else in the division.”

In his almost four decades of police work and over thousands of arrests, Ward never fired his gun.

Nicknamed Warpo over an undercover stint at a punk rock club, Ward was the proud father of two children and a devoted family man.

“We always had each other’s back, and we depended upon one another to get through each shift,” said Bromell.

“I was fortunate to work with him and witness his legacy first-hand. Toronto has lost a great cop.”

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