Toronto’s police chief surprised many in the city on Monday by announcing plans to step down from the force’s top job months before his contract was due to expire.
Chief Mark Saunders did not provide reasons for the timing of his pending resignation, which will take effect on July 31, but said he looked forward to spending more time with his family.
The veteran officer, whose more than five-year tenure at the helm has included clashes with some of the city’s most marginalized communities, said he was not leaving with a heavy heart.
“Here I am after 37-plus years of serving what I believe to be the best law enforcement agency in the world,” Saunders said at a news conference announcing his looming departure. “I have watched this organization — from start to finish —grow, learn, listen, and serve the fourth-largest city on the North American continent and the most diverse city in the world.”
Saunders was named chief in April 2015, succeeding now-federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. His term in the top post was extended until 2021 despite some high-profile clashes with the city’s LGBTQ community, particularly during the investigation of a serial killer who targeted men in the community.
Recent weekend protests in support of the international Black Lives Matter movement played out peacefully in Toronto and featured Saunders, who is black, taking a knee as a show of solidarity with the demonstrators.
The chief offered words of praise for Toronto when announcing his plans to step down.
“You’re responsible for solving most of the cases that were presented in this city,” he said. “You’re responsible for working us through the good, the bad, the indifferent. You’re the ones that came to the table to keep us in check whenever it was necessary.”
Saunders, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2017, said his health was not a factor in his decision. He said he intends to spend some time with family before taking on a new role.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2020.
The Canadian Press