Chief Mark Saunders contract extended to 2021

Mark Saunders

Toronto’s chief of police Mark Saunders has had his mandate extended by a year and will now serve until at least April 2021.

Mark Saunders was appointed in 2015, replacing Bill Blair, who is now federal minister responsible for crime reduction.

According to a statement from the Toronto Police Services Board, this is only the second time in 40 years that a Toronto police chief will serve a second term. In a statement from Andy Pringle, police board chair, Saunders was “instrumental in leading the organization through a precedent-setting and complex period of transformation, championing the most significant modernization efforts undertaken by the Toronto Police Service.”

“Chief Saunders has been an exceptional leader through his term to date, and his renewed appointment signals the Board’s commitment to the full implementation of the modernization plan, which, upon completion, will cement the Toronto Police Service’s reputation as a world-class leader in progressive community policing and innovative law enforcement,” said Pringle.

Interestingly, Saunders’ renewed contract comes just days after the former Toronto deputy chief, Peter Sloly, was appointed as police chief for the City of Ottawa. Sloly stepped down as deputy chief of Toronto police in February 2016, weeks after he broke ranks and publicly criticized the service’s direction, saying police needed to move beyond an unsustainable “reactive enforcement model.”

At the time of Saunders first appointment, it was public knowledge that Sloly, who had garnered the support of a number of community and civic organizations, was favoured to fill the vacancy left by Bill Blair. Certainly, a number of black community organizations were advocating for Sloly; so his 2016 resignation came as no surprise.

Saunders, in his renewed mandate, has his work cut out for him as Toronto experiences its worst outbreak of gun and gang violence in decades. Fortunately he has the support of three levels of government; the Federal Government has pledged $54M to fight gun violence.

The contract renewal has the support of Mayor John Tory who said in a statement: “Chief Saunders has helped us move forward with the modernization of the Toronto Police Service. Extending his contract will ensure he can complete more of the important work of that modernization,” he said.

“I’m confident that he will continue to provide that leadership over his extended term – ensuring stability within the police service – and leave the Service in a much stronger position to provide modern, effective and trusted policing in our growing city.”

But chair of the Toronto Police Association Mark McCormack was not sanguine, and didn’t mince words by asserting: “We did do a vote of non-confidence in this chief in the last couple of years and nothing has really changed since then…we’re surprised that there is a one-year extension.”