By Gerald V. Paul
The newly minted Deputy Chief of Toronto Police Services has Jamaican roots.
Mark Saunders, named as Deputy Chief on November 20, is now the police service’s second black deputy chief, along with Peter Sloly, who is also of Jamaican heritage.
However, Mark Saunders stressed when he walk into the room, “I am a police officer, first. And yes, colour does play a factor, but the primary purpose of a police officer is to extract information. And that’s the first hurdle you have to overcome.”
Saunders has been assigned to Specialized Operations Command, comprised of various investigative squads consisting of some of the Services’ most critically important Units, all staffed by specially trained members.
“I decided to apply for the position because I feel the present Command is one of the strongest and also very visionary,” Saunders said.
“To be introduced as a Deputy Chief was one of the greatest feelings in my three decades of law enforcement and its something I will never forget,” an enthused Saunders revealed.
But there was a time in 1982 when he had to make a choice: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police or The Toronto Police?
Thanks to advice from his brother, he chose Toronto Police, after he made an application to the RCMP.
So, why a career in law enforcement? The England-born Saunders, who is also Co-Chair of the Black Community Consultative Committee noted the myriad opportunities it offers. “It seems like a career where, everyday you would be doing something different. I did not want to be stuck behind a desk. Looking back, I made the right decision and I am happy.”
His exciting work engaged him with members of the community to identify, prioritize and develop solutions to local policing issues, using a proactive and prevention-based community mobilization approach.
“This is a tremendously positive step forward for our organization. He is an accomplished police leader, with exceptional investigative skills and law enforcement experience. At the same time he is innovative, with a keen awareness of the need to ensure that the police engage and respond to the community in an inclusive, unbiased and collaborative manner, using a variety of outreach and education initiatives.” Toronto Police Services Board Chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee said Saunders understands the critical importance of a positive relationship between the police and the public, and is personally committed to fostering and enhancing this relationship.
As A/Superintendent of 12 Division, Saunders oversaw a budget of $25 million and 233 members. Prior to leading that Division, he was the first visible minority officer to head the Homicide Squad where was in charge of 77 members and instituted major structural changes that have resulted in improvements to the solve-rates in death investigations.
He was also responsible for restructuring how the Service gathers, processes and distributes street gang intelligence while he was the section head of the Urban Gang Unit in Intelligence Operations. As an Incident Commander, he successfully led police responses during several large-scale events, including the 2009 Tamil and 2012 May Day Occupy Toronto protests.
Saunders also brings to bear his experience with One District Drug Squad, the Emergency Task Force and the Fugitive Squad.