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Former head of Toronto police homicide squad joins Global News as commentator

Friday was Hank Idsinga’s last official day as a member of the Toronto Police Service, but wasting no time, he’s already announcing his next assignment.

After a 34-year career with the Toronto police, during which he spent the last six years as an inspector in charge of the homicide squad, Idsinga is excited to be joining Global News radio on Global News Toronto as a regular commentator on crime issues.

“My last day as a police officer was Friday and waking up Saturday morning and realizing I’m no longer a police officer with the Toronto Police after 34 years, it’s definitely a big moment in my life,” said Idsinga, who sat down with Global News crime specialist Catherine McDonald to discuss his impressive career.

The Hamilton-born, Burlington-raised husband and father says he wasn’t ready for retirement, so when the opportunity presented itself to work in media, he was excited for the new challenge.

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Idsinga said as a boy, he always wanted to be an investigator, and by the time he was a teenager, he realized working as a police officer would fulfil those goals. Just one year after starting at 14 Division in the city’s west end, Idsinga remembers going to a murder scene, and dreaming of a future in the homicide squad.

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In February 2005, he finally made it into the homicide squad and never left, starting out as a detective, before being promoted to detective sergeant, then ultimately being named inspector in 2018.

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That was the year police arrested Bruce McArthur. Originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder, the former landscaper was eventually charged with the murders of eight men in and around Toronto’s village neighbourhood.

Idsinga said beginning Jan. 18, 2018, the day of McArthur’s arrest, he dedicated 2018 to doing media interviews with news outlets from around the world — hardly surprising given a number of the victims were from abroad.

“I couldn’t even put a number of the sheer interviews that we did. When my cousin in Holland is clipping a newspaper article in Holland and sending it to me and saying ‘Hey, you made the papers in Holland’, you know it’s international news.”

Idsinga says the toughest cases he had to investigate involve children. “The Katelyn Sampson case and the Nicholas Cruz. Emotionally those are definitely the toughest ones to process in your mind.”

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He says the case he’s asked about most is the murder of Barry and Honey Sherman. “I was in charge of the unit while that investigation was going on and is still going on, and people still have a keen interest in that as well.”

Idsinga said he’s read statistics saying the average person will see three to four traumatic events in their lifetime versus a first responder who might witness over 700. “That type of trauma, more than thirty years of policing and homicide scenes and sudden death scenes certainly takes its toll.” He credits physical fitness and a healthy diet with dealing with his trauma.

“When I was 21, my go-to recreation was basketball. I was lucky where I could mesh that passion for playing basketball with some of my police work, running basketball clinics and camps in South Regent Park. Then in my 30s, I couldn’t do that anymore because of my knees and eventually evolved into cycling. I’m a passionate cyclist.”

Idsinga is a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, saying he can’t count how many times he’s seen Springsteen play live. “The only artist on my playlist is Bruce Springsteen. All day, every day if I could,” he smiles.

He’s also keeping busy teaching courses in criminal and death investigations at Humber College. Like the new role with Global News, Idsinga says he enjoys being able to tell stories about his own experiences as a police officer, to keep the memories of his career alive.

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