After ‘taking a knee’
After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “took a knee” at a recent anti-racism demonstration on Parliament Hill, we certainly did not expect Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders to follow suit.
But in what was clearly an act of courage, Saunders also “took a knee” at a protest demonstration in front of police headquarters.
Clearly, Chief Saunders was acting in solidarity with the anti-racism protesters and the news of his plans to step down this summer came soon after.
After he ” took a knee” and showed an upraised clenched fist at the demonstration, we are not surprised by his announcement last Monday that he would step down on July 31, although his contract was set to expire in eight months.
Saunders, Toronto’s first Black police chief, made the announcement amid growing protest about the treatment of Black people by law enforcement, including officers in the Toronto Police Service.
And while he did not state specific reasons for his early departure, other than wanting to spend more time with his family, Chief Saunders must be concerned about what is happening in Toronto with respect to crime and law enforcement.
During his period in office as police chief, he saw a record number of homiucides and incidents of gun violence.
Clearly, the murders of young Black people must be a matter of deep concern.
As he noted earlier this week,” “I see a lot of young black boys getting killed by young black boys and law enforcement deals with those symptoms.”
Chief Saunders says he wants ” to help cure the disease” and has promised to continue to work ” for free” to help the city.
He has not yet stated in what capacity he plans to continue to work but there are unconfirmed reports that his work may be in the political sphere.
As he gets ready to step down, there are growing cries over the treatmennt by Toronto police of persons with mental problems and calls for “defunding ” law enforcement agencies.
Only last week we highlighted the case of a Toronto woman who plunged to her death from her 24th floor apartment after what her family said was a 911 call that went terribly wrong.
As we reported, her family is concerned that in recent times people with mental health distress issues across North America are ending up dead after interactions with the police.
The problem, of course, is not new.
There have been numerous cases of people with mental health problems in Toronto’s Black community who have been killed by police.
And, as we report in this issue of The Caribbean Camera, some experts believe that“defunding” police – taking some of the taxpayer money going to law enforcement and putting it towards mental health services – is one way to avoid deadly interactions between officers and people struggling with mental illness.
We agree that putting more money into mental health services is a positive step forward in dealing with the probllem.
And we also agree that ” defunding ‘ the police should be seriously considered.
We have no doubt that these problems may take longer to solve than ridding the world of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But are are hopeful that the necessary action will be taken to deal with the many problems with the police which continue to affect our own community.
As Chief Saunders gets ready to demit office, we wish him well in his new endeavours and hope that the Toronto Police service will succeed in ridding itself of the problems which he encountered during his tenure.