Next Toronto police chief must have 'sensitivity to anti-Black racism,' mayor says
TORONTO -- Mayor John Tory says that a sensitivity to anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and a commitment to ushering in a “change in policing” will be “prerequisites” when it comes to choosing Toronto’s next police chief.
On Monday city council is expected to consider a proposal from Tory to introduce numerous changes to the city’s policing system, including the creation of an “alternative community safety model” that would lessen the need for officers to respond to calls involving people in crisis.
The proposal also calls on staff to “detail” potential savings resulting from the changes, though it stops short of calling for a specific reduction to the $1.2 billion police budget, as many have called for.
Speaking with CP24 on Saturday, Tory said that whoever succeeds Mark Saunders as police chief will have to be committed to “bringing about change in policing” and addressing anti-Black racism that is very much “still prevalent in our city.”
He said that beyond that, officials should keep an open mind as much as possible.
“You have to weigh all the different considerations but it starts with public input and it starts with I think somebody who is going to be committed to the kinds of changes that the city council, the existing chief and the board have indicated they want to make,” he said. “If you have somebody that doesn’t want to make that change then you are not going to make it happen.”
Saunders was hired as the city’s first Black police chief in 2015, with a mandate to modernize and streamline the service.
He was supposed to remain as the head of the service until April but he announced earlier this month that he would leave, effective July 31.
His departure means that Toronto Police Services board will now be looking for a new chief, just as it contemplates major changes to the way that policing is delivered in the city.
At this point the process for selecting the TPS’s new chief remains unclear, though Tory’s motion that will be debated Monday calls for the “development of a rigorous community consultation process to inform the criteria for the selection of the next chief of police.”
“The first thing we are going to do is to engage the public and find out in the context of some of the changes and reforms that we are talking about what kind of person do you think we need to have?” Tory said Saturday. “You know what kind of background should they have? I even saw something yesterday saying that we should be looking for somebody completely outside the box and maybe not even from policing and I would just say that is the kind of input that we need to listen to.”
Deputy Chief James Ramer will act as Interim Chief of the Toronto Police Service once Saunders steps down at the end of July.