2016 Villain: Police Leadership
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2016 Villain: Police Leadership

Nominated for: giving us many more moments that erode public trust.

Torontoist is reflecting on 2016 by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 11:59 p.m. on January 5. At noon on January 6, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The lack of institutional leadership on Toronto’s policing file is easy to take for granted. After all, we get so many reminders of it, followed by a wave of the hand and a “nothing to see here, folks,” that it feels easy to just accept it.

But it’s worth looking back to see how it adds up, and how the key players entrusted with serving and protecting Toronto often failed to do so.

Police Chief Mark Saunders made a habit of putting his foot in his mouth. He scolded a journalist who asked about the police practice of giving away vacation days for charity drives. He wrote that his decision to change the colour of police vehicles—he liked the design, you see, so he made the choice unilaterally—was part of a police modernization effort.

Then there’s the chair of the Police Services Board, John Tory’s good friend (and former chief of staff at Queen’s Park), Andy Pringle. The retired bond trader wasn’t just any supporter of Kellie Leitch’s vile campaign to lead the federal Conservatives; he was a key fundraiser (at one point stating he would be her “chief fundraiser”). Neither Pringle nor Tory immediately accepted that there were any inherent problems in this arrangement. It was only after repeated criticism—his political activities may have violated the Police Board code of conduct—that Pringle stepped away from fundraising for Leitch and her Donald Trump-like campaign.

Mike McCormack, who is the head of the Police Association, argued that the attempted murder conviction against police officer James Forcillo, who shot Sammy Yatim nine times, would make officers less likely to shoot. He said this as though it was a bad development. He also continued to defend carding, and theorized that more people were being murdered because police officers aren’t able to short-change citizens of their rights anymore.

Toronto’s flawed police leadership is frustrating, disappointing, and should not be ignored. Toronto would be a stronger and better city if we had more reason to put our trust in the Police Service. This trust should not be given away unconditionally; it must be earned. And for some of the most important people in Police leadership positions, they need to do better for all of our sake.