Toronto gets its first black police chief: Mark Saunders

Photo: Toronto Police
Photo: Toronto Police

THE Toronto Police Services Board on Monday announced Deputy Chief Mark Saunders will be the next police chief. He will take over from Bill Blair on April 26.

Saunders is a 32-year veteran of the service who started his career as a constable in 1982. Over the next three decades, Saunders went on to work in Special Investigations, the Emergency Task Force and led the Homicide Squad, amongst various other roles within the Service.

According to Board Member and Mayor John Tory, the selection process was an “exhaustive” one, where they had international and local candidates apply for the spot. “As far as I know, this is the most thorough selection process ever undertaken for a (Toronto) Chief of Police,” said Tory.

Tory said the selection process showed the Board the extent of global changes happening in policing and that, in 2015, there were now more innovative ways to police – something all candidates touched upon according to Tory. Keeping this in mind, the Board believes “Mark Saunders will be an experienced, trusted, sensitive and innovative leader of our service,” said Tory.

The Chair of the Board, Alok Mukherjee, said the search for the next chief of police was captured in two words, “leader and change” which were “essential requirements” for the job.

The Chair went on to say the Board was confident that, in Saunders, they had found an “advocate of effective, equitable policing, a recognized police leader and a creative problem-solver.”

Saunders promised the citizens of the city that he would do everything in his power to make sure the Service is “bias-free and whose members treat everybody with respect and dignity. He said that “Toronto is truly the greatest city in the world, I love this city for what it stands for, the fact that over 140 cultures … live peacefully together is a testament to the great citizens we have and they deserve the best police service in the world.”

Upon answering several questions by the media on how having a black chief would change the Service, the Chief-Designate said, “being black is fantastic. It doesn’t give me superpowers,” adding that it would not create miracles and that community and police working together would start the change.