Mark Saunders Named New Police Chief
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Mark Saunders Named New Police Chief

Deputy chief becomes first black police chief in Toronto history.

Mark Saunders takes notes during a 2012 meeting on police carding and racial profiling. File photo by Desmond Cole.

There’s a new chief in town.

Deputy Chief Mark Saunders, 52, will be named the next chief of the Toronto Police Service in a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Saunders will become the first black police chief in the city, and the second in a major Canadian city.

Saunders was selected following a months-long process that also looked at fellow deputy chiefs Peter Sloly and Mike Federico, as well as a handful of external candidates.

While Saunders takes charge at a time of falling crime rates, he will also face challenges on multiple issues the force must confront in the coming years.

As police chief, Saunders will oversee the largest single line item in the City budget. The billion-dollar police budget has been criticized by the likes of former mayoral candidate David Soknacki and former mayor John Sewell as oversized and under-examined, and it has grown at a higher rate than the rest of the City budget. With other divisions seeing budget pressures, the police force’s expenditures could see more attention in coming years. The fact that around 90 per cent of costs are currently for labour, with a new police contract just signed approving a raise of over eight per cent over the next four years, will mean relatively little flexibility.

Saunders will also be called upon to seriously reform or abolish the controversial police practice of carding; outgoing chief Bill Blair was increasingly unwilling to cooperate with the police board on the matter in his last few months.

Saunders, who was the first black officer to lead the homicide division, is largely seen as having the support of the union and rank-and-file officers.