WATCH: Toronto’s new police chief Mark Saunders honoured to be chosen
TORONTO – Mark Saunders has been appointed Toronto’s new police chief and the first black person to hold the position in the department’s history.
The announcement was made Monday morning at Toronto police headquarters attended by Mayor John Tory and Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee.
“What you look for is a combination of experience, not only expressed desire to bring about change, but the ability to bring about that change,” said Tory.
Saunders takes the reins of Toronto’s police force from outgoing Chief Bill Blair who is retiring at the end of this week.
“I really think we have some tremendous leadership with the police service,” said Saunders. “I look forward to working with everybody to see what needs to be fixed.”
Chief designate Saunders said he plans to lay out his plan for the police service in the coming weeks with special attention being focused on the controversial issue of carding, as well as lowering spiraling costs at the department — the largest force in the country.
“I really do think we need more sit downs, open conversations and dialogue,” Saunders explained. “Toronto is truly the greatest city in the world. Community relationships will determine the success and failure of our force.”
Saunders is a 32-year Toronto police veteran and was appointed deputy chief in 2012.
He has been in charge of Specialized Operations Command which has a budget of $175 million, 1,200 police officers and 164 civilian members.
He is also the TPS’s executive sponsor of the Toronto Pan Am/Parapan American Games, responsible for safety and security, and he’s credited with establishing the Toronto police department’s cybercrime unit.
Mukherjee said the selection process was comprehensive and involved several international applicants.
“The board heard from a cross-section of the community, elected officials, youth and Toronto police service,” he said. “It also led to a global search for the next leader.”
Mukherjee said the selection process began with six candidates and brought down to three for consideration.
“Don’t think for any second the competition was weak in any way, it was the opposite,” said Saunders.
Both Peter Sloly and Michael Federico will remain as deputy chief working alongside Saunders as part of the police force’s leadership team.
The new chief designate joked with reporters when asked about his race and being the first black person to head Toronto’s police department.
“Being black is fantastic. It doesn’t give me superpowers,” he said.
Saunders did however mention it did hit home to him when his son found out about his father’s new position.
“It resonated with me when I told my son and he said to me, ‘Dad, that’s history and that’s something they can never take from you,'” he said.
“I didn’t realize it was that huge of an impact until my 10-year-old told me that.”
Follow a liveblog from Global News reporter Mark Carcasole at the announcement.