By TOM GODFREY
The race is on.
A search for a new top cop to replace Chief Bill Blair officially began last week as a Toronto consulting firm was hired to prepare a short-list of contenders.
A job call was issued last Monday by the Toronto Police Services Board and applicants from here and abroad have until February 20 to submit their resumes.
The Board has retained recruiters Odgers and Berndtson “to conduct a broad national and international search to identify the best person to lead the Toronto Police Service”.
“Odgers Berndtson has capably assisted many other Boards in the appointment of senior police executives across Canada,” said Board Chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee.
Mukherjee said a short list will be handed over to the Board, whose members will conduct interviews with candidates seeking the job, which comes with a driver and pays more than $360,000 a year.
The seven-member Board, that includes Mayor John Tory, will then have about three weeks to select a chief, just in time as Blair rides into the sunset in April.
Blair has been keeping a low profile lately and has not been seen much around 40 College St. He has not appeared in any recent sound bites and someone this week called him a “lame duck” chief.
His silence has prompted his deputy chiefs and other top police brass to rush to the court of public opinion as they jockey for positions that could lead to the Chief’s large office.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly has lately been seen attending a number of events with Dr. Mukherjee, including Black History Month activities and budget negotiations at City Hall.
Sloly was at a Rotary Club of Toronto West Awards last week and a Toronto-U.S. police exchange a week before.
Deputy Chief Mark Saunders has also picked up the pace with more appearances and a decent speech at Covenant House last week. There are also contenders from some GTA forces whose chiefs are said to be interested in the Toronto opening.
And don’t forget the speculation about Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, who recently resigned and is said to have his eyes on Blair’s job.
I don’t blame any of the skilled contenders for applying for the job. Who wouldn’t want to lead the cutting-edge Toronto Police Service, with more than 5,500 cops, in a city that loves cops.
“We are hoping to get a list of some strong candidates,” said Mukherjee. “We have some crucial issues that have to be dealt with.”
He said a new chief will work with the Board to ensure the Toronto police service is among the top forces in North America.
“It will be quite laborious,” Mukherjee said of the selection process. “We will ensure we have the candidate with the track record we want.”
Community members are also keeping a keen eye on the process and have their own views of the type of qualities an incoming chief should possess.
Most of us want a chief with excellent people and community skills, who is a good administrator, and can lead by example and inspire others.
Community activist Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), believes it’s time for a more culturally sensitive chief.
“What we need in the new chief is respect for the dignity and worth of every person, as enshrined in the Preamble to the Human Rights Code,” said Gilliam. “These principles should not only be verbally enunciated but demonstrated in their practice.”
We need someone who will take us past racial profiling and carding and to move beyond. The board also has to find someone with social skills, who can work with the mentally ill, homeless or marginalized in our communities.
We are all better off for this selection process, in that we will get a new chief and with a relatively new mayor, they will be poised to face bigger challenges as Toronto grows by leaps and bounds.