By TOM GODFREY
Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow says the public should be consulted regarding the selection of a new Police Chief to replace Bill Blair when he leaves office early next year.
Chow is calling for community meetings to be held to gather public input in the search that is expected to examine candidates beyond our borders.
“There should be meetings held for the public to let us know what kind of chief they want,” Chow said last week at a campaign stop. “This is an important decision that will affect the lives of residents for many years.”
Blair, 60, who has been chief for almost a decade, led the force as it faced turmoil during the G20 Summit and through a number of high-profile shootings: including that of Sammy Yatim, who was shot multiple times on a streetcar last year. He also spearheaded the probe against Mayor
Chow says Toronto is ready for the best chief available, noting that there are two excellent Black candidates in the running.
She was referring to Deputy Chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders, who were both promoted under Blair and have a chance of filling his huge shoes. Blair’s contract was not renewed and he leaves the job in April.
“Both men are talented and may the best man win,” Chow said of the search. “I am sure there are many good candidates being looked at.”
Toronto is a multicultural city and it will be a good sign if the Toronto Police Services Board selects a chief who reflects the makeup of our city.
“Our city is diverse and we are ready for the best chief we can get,” she said. “I think we have to talk to the residents and ask them what kind of chief they want.”
Sloly and Saunders, both of whom I have met and know a little about, have the qualifications and experience required to lead an 8,000-member strong organization into the future. They also have the strength to deal with an unrelenting police association.
Sloly, who is in charge of Community Safety Command, with 4,000 officers, is the recipient of a number of awards from the Black community and spoke against the racial profiling of young Blacks.
A former member of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo, he has paid his dues working under Blair. Sloly is perceived by some as a bureaucrat who has not served much time as a frontline cop.
Saunders is in charge of Specialized Operations Command, where he oversees 1,200 officers. He is described as a “cop’s cop”, who is a former Unit Commander of the Homicide Unit.
They are among a list of candidates being compiled for consideration by the board, which is said to be reviewing candidates from the U.K. and elsewhere.
It will be a tough decision as so much is expected of a chief, especially one who has to try and please the many groups bidding for attention in Canada’s largest city.
Maybe, Chow is right and there should be consultations before a chief is hired. I don’t understand why potential chiefs, like mayoral candidates, cannot face the media and outline a platform they will undertake as Toronto’s top cop.
The next chief will have to trim the force’s $1 billion budget and build on Blair’s achievements. They must also be a booster of community policing and have a deep understanding of multicultural issues.
Blair is noted for significantly expanding the hiring of women and minorities and for his rapport with various ethnic communities. In Toronto, furthering these commitments is fundamental to the job.
Other names being bandied about as possible contenders include former Supt. Kimberley Greenwood, now Chief of Barrie police; Deputy Chief Mike Federico and former Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire, now Chief of Niagara Regional Police.
All the candidates have merit and experience, so let the lobbying begin.