‘It is time for you to step aside’: Toronto officer sends email calling out mayor over gun violence
It is addressed to “Mr. Tory” and calls him a “direct contributor” to the shootings by supporting “the cancellation of the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) program.”
“You flip-flopped on carding and supported its demise. You forced budget and staffing cuts on the Toronto police,” read the email.
It’s signed by Mark Hayward, who also happens to be a veteran sergeant with the TPS.
WATCH ABOVE: Retired Toronto Police Staff Inspector Mike Earl speaks with Global’s Caryn Lieberman and shares his view on how the Toronto Police Service can help tackle the city’s on-going crime spree.
Hayward told Global News on Thursday that he wrote the email as a concerned citizen, but noted he does have more than 30 years’ experience as a police officer in the city.
Hayward would not comment directly on the email, but said he stands by it and wrote it with public safety at heart.
“It is obvious Chief Saunders is a puppet on strings and you are pulling them. You have zero qualifications to run a police service and should be hands off, to allow the police to do what they do best,” he wrote in the email.
The letter also focused on community policing programs, which Hayward said, have no effect “on the thugs who are killing people, including the innocent bystanders, in record numbers.”
WATCH ABOVE: In the wake of the recent gun violence in the city, a member of the Toronto Police Service is expressing concern and frustration. Caryn Lieberman has more.
A slew of shootings in the city are raising concerns about an increase in gun violence and what appears to be a wave of gang-fueled attacks in Toronto.
There have been 52 murders so far in 2018, 25 of them have been shooting deaths that spanned across the Greater Toronto area (GTA).
“Politicians like yourself are quick to make cuts when all is ‘good’ and you figure we don’t need as much policing,” said the email. “The peace and safety you enjoy is because of the efforts of the police. When you tie their hands, restrict their abilities, remove the necessary tools and cut staffing the results are inevitable.”
Hayward urged Tory to step aside and allow Police Chief Mark Saunders “free reign” to do his job.
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack, who said he had not seen the email, acknowledged it is proof frustration amidst his members is at a boiling point.
“We’re all concerned about what’s going on in the city right now and this email is born of frustration and our officers and civilians are committed to safe communities and they take their jobs very seriously.”
Mark Hayward wrote about the TAVIS program, which, he said, “kept gangs at bay and always looking over their shoulders.”
TAVIS was a specialized policing unit formed in 2006 in response to a sharp spike in gun violence, during what is now known as the “summer of the gun.”
But TAVIS was also known for high rates of “carding,” which critics said increased tensions between police and residents of targeted neighbourhoods. It was disbanded in January 2017.
McCormack said, “we’re looking for the resources that embed officers in the communities. We know the argument on carding is gone, the community said that they don’t want it, it erodes the relationship with police and the community. But we haven’t got a tool to replace that.”
In his lengthy email, Hayward also called out the mayor for refusing to accept any blame for this “crisis.”
“You expect the already strapped police to bring these criminals to justice, however, like the only policing we now have, this is reactionary and not a proactive response.”
A spokesperson for the Toronto Police called the letter “abusive” but would not expand on it.
The mayor’s office released a statement reiterating comments from earlier this week.
“As the mayor said the other day, there is no simple explanation or easy answer to this issue but he is committed to working with everyone to keep our city safe.”
The statement added, the city funds a variety of programs aimed at addressing the roots of gang violence and 200 officers are being hired this year as the service is modernized.
“Mayor Tory is focused on working with Chief Mark Saunders, Toronto Police, city staff and all Toronto residents along with our partners in the Ontario and federal governments to address gang violence.”
Retired Toronto police Staff Inspector Mike Earl said Hayward wrote in an email what many other officers are thinking.
“When we have crime sprees like this, the police want to hear from the Chief, and we have a Mayor that’s out in front talking about crime.. I think there’s some frustration, which that officer pointed out, and it might be unintentional but it’s actually being seen by the officers,” he said.
He points to the need for a multi-pronged approach to gun violence, but acknowledges it could take time for police to gain the upper hand.
“It’s like a boiling pot of potatoes, the police used to hold the lid on for the gang wars and now the lid is off.”
A professional standards investigation into Sergeant Mark Hayward’s email is possible, but there has been no confirmation as of yet.
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