Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders says his contract has been renewed to remain in his current role until 2021.
A statement from the Toronto Police Services Board said this is the second time in 40 years a chief of Toronto police will serve longer than a single term.
Saunders was appointed as chief April 17, 2015.
A statement from chair Andy Pringle said the board commends Saunders “for being instrumental in leading the organization through a precedent-setting and complex period of transformation, championing the most significant modernization efforts undertaken by the Toronto Police Service.”
“Chief Saunders has been an exceptional leader through his term to date, and his renewed appointment signals the Board’s commitment to the full implementation of the modernization plan, which, upon completion, will cement the Toronto Police Service’s reputation as a world-class leader in progressive community policing and innovative law enforcement,” Pringle continued.
Saunders is currently in his 36th year with TPS. He has served time in the urban street gang unit, intelligence division and drug squad, among other roles.
Toronto Mayor John Tory also issued a statement approving of the decision.
“Chief Saunders has helped us move forward with the modernization of the Toronto Police Service. Extending his contract will ensure he can complete more of the important work of that modernization,” he said.
“I’m confident that he will continue to provide that leadership over his extended term – ensuring stability within the police service – and leave the Service in a much stronger position to provide modern, effective and trusted policing in our growing city.”
Toronto is in the midst of a string of gun violence in the city, which Saunders has said is related to street gangs. Seventeen people were shot over the August long weekend.
Following news of Saunders’ contract extension Tuesday, critics said the force needs a new leader to not just combat crime, but help with officer morale in the midst of the uptick in violence.
“We did do a vote of non-confidence in this chief in the last couple of years and nothing has really changed since then,” said Mike McCormack, chair of the Toronto Police Association
“We’re surprised that there is a one-year extension,” McCormack continued. “We’re concerned about officer and civilian burnout within our employees or our members and we’ve seen a steady increase since 2014 in gun violence.”
Numerous announcements of funding and initiatives have come out over the past month to combat the violence.
The provincial government announcement $3 million toward the implementation of more CCTV cameras around the city.
On Monday, the federal government announced another $54 million to fight illegal guns and gangs.
– With files from Morganne Campbell