The Toronto Police Services Board announced Deputy Chief Mark Saunders as the Chief-Designate, this morning. Saunders will take over from Chief Bill Blair on April 26.
The Chief-Designate is a 32-year veteran of the Service who started his career as a Constable at 11 Division 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.
He added that six candidates were shortlisted, then it was cut down to three, out of which Saunders was selected. “In the end we believed Mark Saunders represented the best choice among the excellent choices,” 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 Chief-Designate 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.”
I look forward to serving the great citizens of the city, a city in which I live and a city that I am proud to serve
The Chief-Designate also assured community members, who were unsure in supporting him because they did not know enough about him, that he looked forward to getting to know them and “in having discussions that will earn your support.”
“I do not take this lightly, the ability to work collaboratively is crucial and I want you to know that I recognize this point very clearly,” said Saunders.
He went on to acknowledge the work Chief Blair had done for policing in the city as well as the strong command he had in Deputies Federico and Sloly. “Chief Blair has been a visionary in Canadian policing,” said Saunders. “Deputies Mike Federico and Peter Sloly are two of the most intelligent, well-versed and dedicated officers I know, and I look forward to working with them as we move forward. Together, we will form a strong and committed team that will ensure that the people of Toronto will get the world-class policing they deserve.”
While Saunders is the first black chief in the city’s history, and he acknowledged the fact struck him when his ten-year-old son told him that he was making history, he made it clear that it was his skills as an officer that helped him earn the position as the next chief. 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.
“To say that I am excited about the opportunity would be an understatement, I am truly honoured to be chosen as the Chief-Designate for the Toronto Police Service. I look forward to serving the great citizens of the city, a city in which I live and a city that I am proud to serve,” concluded Saunders.