By TOM GODFREY
Toronto’s first Black police chief-designate, Mark Saunders, will have to quickly learn about policy and players as he undertakes a steep learning curve over the next few months.
Saunders will soon be the holder of the large office on the seventh floor of 40 College St., that will come with a car and driver which he will surely need to attend all the meetings he will soon have marked in his day book.
The cop’s cop will have to listen to the concerns of his front-line officers, senior staff, political leaders and lineups of members from the community, who want to bend his ear.
Saunders, 52, has vowed not to shy away from the carding issue and wants to meet with the community to hear their concerns first-hand.
The former head of the Homicide Squad and member of the Gun and Gang Unit, Saunders is popular and well-liked by cops. He is a decent guy, who is humble and not flashy and doesn’t have the cop-or-not attitude.
The father of four praises outgoing Chief Bill Blair, who has been a mentor to him over the years.
Born in England to parents from Jamaica, Saunders pledges to reach out into the diverse communities and talk about their concerns in regards to the Community Engagements Policy, that so many oppose.
He is articulate and is in a position to have his officers temporarily lay off on the targeting of Black youth for questioning until some agreeable guidelines can be forged.
Saunders also has to make decisions as to how long information can be kept in police computers after they have been obtained in Street Checks.
He has vowed to come up with a roadmap of things to do after being sworn in as chief, a historic role since he is the first Black since the force was founded in 1834.
Perhaps as chief he can make appearances and give talks to youths in at-risk communities and how they too can become a role model.
A lot is expected of Saunders in his new job by members of the community. We all will be watching to see what he does to help us in our daily lives when it comes to being racially profiled and carded by police officers.
Board Chair Alok Mukherjee and Mayor John Tory said the selection was one of the toughest decisions that they have had to make.
In the end it came down to three candidates; Saunders and deputy chiefs Peter Sloly and Mike Federico. In this case, the best man won.
Saunders has been a cop for 32 years and is an astute, well-read man, who if he extends himself to the community in a frank, open discussion, will do well.
He has been around, understands the community and has young children who can easily be carded at some point.
He is a career officer, who as much as he is well-liked by cops, has to have the respect of those in the community for his officers to receive it in return.
We can only be a judge of his leadership when young Black males for once stop complaining that they are being pulled over by police for doing nothing wrong.
Most of us agree that the selection of Saunders as the next chief is great news for the community. We may now it seems have someone in power who will listen to our complaints.
Maybe Saunders will be the guy to help make it fairer for our many Black or brown youth who are victims of so many police Street Checks.
Enormous respect also goes to Peter Sloly for dropping his hat into the ring. Like Mayor Tory said, any of the three contenders would have made a great chief.