The chair of the Toronto Police Services Board Alok Mukherjee says he’s confident new chief Mark Saunders will be “a people’s cop” and a leader unafraid to enact change if needed. “He is open to change and made changes to the places where he has been unit commander,” he said.
The board Mukherjee chairs unanimously chose Saunders — a deputy chief with 32 years with the force — over another well-qualified deputy chief Peter Sloly, also black.
But the hiring of Saunders, Toronto’s first black police chief is drawing very mixed reviews. Some see him as a highly qualified candidate with experience at various leadership positions in Canada’s largest police force. Others expressed concern that Saunders, who appears to be the union’s preferred candidate, may not be the best person to modernize the force, curtail rising policing costs and heal wounds with communities opposed to the controversial practice of carding.
Mukherjee said he watched Saunders make a point of meeting with people in troubled neighbourhoods during his days as a unit commander.
“Mark went into the audience, introduced himself, made appointments and saw those people in their places and earned their respect. He earned the praise of the very people who are critical of the police in that area. That is not easily done.”
Mukherjee clashed at times with outgoing Chief Bill Blair but said Saunders is someone who embraces the concept of civilian oversight and “will be able to make change happen.”
Policing one of the largest cities in North America is not an easy task. Toronto continues to be one of the safest cities in the world but keeping its reputation intact comes at a cost. Certain practices and methods may be seen as wrong but it may just be the only way to keep Toronto’s residents safe.