Deputy Chief Mark Saunders accepted the African-Canadian Achievement Excellence in Law Award on February 21 at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
“This is a great statement for the Toronto Police Service,” said Saunders. “We know the importance of diversity and have embraced it. We walk the talk and others are following our lead.”
The awards celebrate the achievements, and pay tribute to the exemplary contributions of African-Canadians to their community, and the wider Canadian society. In his 33rd year with the Service, Saunders said he was overwhelmed by the recognition.
“I have never done anything for recognition, but it’s good when people are watching you behind the scenes and you don’t know it and they take the time to say thank-you,” he said. “We don’t do this job for a thank-you but, when you get one, it’s a great feeling. When I look at the other people being recognized, in the various categories, it’s great to be in that circle.
This year’s winners including honourees for contributions to science, medicine, business and media.
Both Chief Bill Blair and Deputy Chief Peter Sloly have been honoured in the past.
“To know that you are in a room filled with people who have contributed to making history and this country a better place – to be part of this group is a phenomenal feeling.”
To know that you are in a room filled with people who have contributed to making history and this country a better place – to be part of this group is a phenomenal feeling
In November 2012, Saunders made the leap to Deputy from Acting Superintendent and unit commander at 12 Division, where he combined a powerful uniformed enforcement presence with a strong investigative component and a clear emphasis on community investment and customer service.
Prior to that assignment, he was the first visible minority to head Homicide, where he instituted major structural changes in the two years he was there that resulted in improvements to the “solve rates” in death investigations.
As Incident Commander, he successfully spearheaded police responses during several large-scale operations, including the 2009 Tamil and this year’s May Day Occupy Toronto protests that involved balancing community safety concerns with the right to peaceful protest.
Saunders was also responsible for restructuring how the Service gathers, processes and distributes street-gang intelligence.
He was accompanied by to the awards by his wife, Stacy, and their son, Graham.
“I am who I am because of my family,” he added. “My wife is my hero. Without her, I would never have been able to accomplish a 10th of the things I have achieved. This job can be gruelling mentally and, if you don’t have any mechanisms to strike a proper balance, you could be on a road that could become treacherous. Without that family support, your chances of success in this business are going to be tough.”
Saunders has also been assigned to the Drug Squad, the Emergency Task Force and Fugitive Squad before his promotion to Deputy Chief.
He heads Specialized Operations Command, comprised of various investigative squads consisting of some of the Service’s most critically important units, all staffed by specially trained members.