Searching for a new Toronto Police Chief

Mark Saunders

In April 2015, when Mark Saunders was appointed the first Black Canadian to lead the Toronto Police, there was elation among many in our Caribbean community who were expecting major progressive changes in policing in Canada’s largest city.

Many were disappointed that some changes that were badly needed never materialized.

This is not to say that Police Chief Saunders was not hard working and did not try to effect changes.

Perhaps too much was expected of him.

Today, many in our community still harbour great distrust for those whose motto is to “serve and protect.”

We are still grieving for the many Black people whose lives were unfairly snuffed out by policemen’s bullets – some of them mental patients who needed help but instead were killed.

We are still facing serious problems of racial discrimination from officers of the law from whom were thought we could expect some measure of protection with respect to anti-Black racism.

It is interesting to note that in August 2019, the Toronto Police Service Board extended Saunders’s five-year contract by one year, until April 2021. However, on June 8, 2020, he retired effective July 31, 2020.

Clearly, the Black police chief had had enough.

Let’s face it: It is not easy to be a Black police chief in Toronto or Ottawa. In fact some argue that it may be far easier to be a Member of the Provincial Parliament for Don Valley West -the riding in which Saunders is a candidate for the

Progressive Conservative Part in today’s elections.

Not much has been heard from Saunders on the hustings but some political observers say he may not have to say anything to win the seat.

Meanwhile, the search is on for a new Toronto police chief.

The Toronto Police Service says it is seeking “a progressive, strategic and inspirational law enforcement executive” as its next Chief of Police.

Reporting to the Toronto Police Services Board (and operating within Ontario’s policing and other legislative frameworks), the Chief will be accountable for providing strategic operational leadership, successfully delivering on the Board’s priorities and objectives, and effectively overseeing the effective management the Service’s operational areas.

It is searching for:

-Someone who is committed to the needs of diverse communities

– A person who would be accountable

– A chief who would be a “courageous system-changer”

– Someone who would be transparent and communicate well with the public

-A skilled collaborator

-A person who would bring in an anti-discrimination and inclusion focus.

Ainsworth Morgan, currently the lone Black member on the Toronto Police Services Board, told The Caribbean Camera that the person who is chosen as the next Toronto Police Chief should have “transformative leadership” and should be able “to do the community policing that will be very valuable to all Torontonians.”

And, he added, the successful candidate for the job, should have a “demonstrated track record of doing that work.”

We hope that the person selected as the next Toronto Police Chief, regardless of race or gender, will receive the full co-operation of the rank and file of Toronto police in order to effect the progressive changes required in policing in multicultural Toronto.

It is now nearly two years since Saunders resigned as police chief.

We hope that the selection of the new chief will not take much longer.