Senior Canadian officer appointed deputy Garda commissioner

Shawna Coxon and Anne Marie McMahon fill deputy roles under Drew Harris

One of the most senior police officers in the Toronto Police Service in Canada has been appointed to the role of deputy Garda commissioner.

Shawna Coxon, deputy police chief in Toronto for 3½ years, fills one of two vacancies at deputy commissioner level, the second highest in the force.

Assistant Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon has been appointed to the other deputy commissioner post having been “acting” in that role for some time.

It is the first time in the history of the Garda that both deputy commissioner posts have been filled by women.


Their appointments were ratified by the Government on Tuesday after they were recommended for the posts by the Policing Authority following an international recruitment competition.

Both posts needed to be filled at the same time because one has been vacant long term and the other was about to fall vacant on the imminent early retirement of Deputy Commissioner John Twomey.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she was delighted at the appointment of the two women to senior roles she said were “crucial” for the Garda force.

“Both of these officers have solid records of achievement and delivery and bring deep skill, experience and huge personal commitment to policing to these important senior positions,” she said, also paying tribute to Mr Twomey and thanking him for his long years of service.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said Ms McMahon "brings huge policing experience, competence in difficult senior command roles, drive and determination" to the role.

He added Ms Coxon “brings with her extensive policing experience from her service” in Toronto.

“In particular, she has experience of change management, community policing in a diverse city and serious crime investigations including utilising intelligence to its full potential,” Mr Harris said.

Commenting on the appointments, Bob Collins said the Policing Authority, of which he is chair, “recognises the significance of the moment”.

Ms Coxon’s appointment continues a trend of appointing police officers from the outside the Republic to senior posts within the Garda, which included the appointment of Mr Harris in 2018 from the PSNI. Another former PSNI officer, Paula Hilman, was appointed assistant commissioner last year.

Ms Coxon has worked in a variety of areas during a police career of over two decades including child abuse, sex crimes, human rights, professional standards, community response, vice national security. She has 24 years policing experience and played a key role on modernising the Toronto police force’s approach to cybercrime and has a BA in psychology, an MA in criminology and a PhD in law. She has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto.

Ms McMahon joined the Garda in 1986 and is currently assigned as acting deputy commissioner with responsibility for “strategy, governance and performance”.

She was previously assistant commissioner of the southern region as well as being a former director of training and development at the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary. As she climbed up through the ranks Ms McMahon served in Garda stations in some of the most challenging areas of Limerick and Dublin.

She holds an MBS in human resource management from the University of Limerick, a BA in police management from the Garda College and a diploma in business and executive coaching from the Smurfit Business School, Dublin.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times