Just before stepping down last week as Toronto Police Chief, Mark Saunders. in an interview, spoke about ” racism in the service,”
” Racism exists in the service as it does elsewhere in society. So it’s logical that undercurrents flow through the organization, ” he said.
“There is no mystery to that; it’s built in everywhere. We hire from the world. So, of course, the answer is yes; there’s nothing unique to that.”
Saunders went on to note that ” tackling systemic racism requires a multi-faceted approach. For one thing, police cameras are now ubiquitous in booking halls and cruisers, while officers wear microphones. Body cameras are the next step.”
He also noted that police owe it to the public and themselves to embrace values of respect and equality.
“It’s either robust training or it’s discipline,” Saunders said. “We’re out there doing absolutely everything we can.”
Recently, he took a very public knee during an anti-racism protest. He said it was the right thing to do and that he was “totally in alignment” with the demonstrators’ views.
He has, he said, guided the force through a rapidly changing world in which an increasingly diverse population has grown louder in demanding accountability and responsiveness.
He also noted that the service has aggressively recruited visible minorities for years and has been recognized for its diversity.
And he is especially proud of a its “very off-the-grid” modernization plan in 2017 that flowed from a community-centric task force which he initiated.
Before becoming chief in 2015, Saunders, 57, spent years dealing with street gangs, combating drug trafficking, and working with the emergency task force. For now, he has no plans beyond spending more time with his family.
“I’ll just see where it goes,” he says.