Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has announced he will step down next month.
“Effectively July 31st of this year I will relinquish my seat as chief of police for the Toronto Police Service,” he said at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
A 37-year veteran of the Toronto police force, Saunders became the city’s first Black police chief when he was hired in April, 2015. His contract was extended last year until April 30, 2021.
Saunders said he wants to spend more time with family and eventually do community work.
“I see a lot of young Black boys getting killed by young Black boys. Law enforcement deals with those symptoms and I want to help with the cure for the disease,” he said on Monday. “I think I have a ton of knowledge that can help keep governments in check.”
Saunders’ tenure has included responding to the Toronto van attack in 2018 and the Danforth mass shooting, also in 2018.
In 2016, Black Lives Matter camped outside police headquarters in protest after the Special Investigations Unit did not lay charges against the Toronto police officer shot and killed Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old immigrant from South Sudan, in July 2015.
The chief’s resignation comes amid a series of demonstrations against anti-Black racism and police brutality over the past two weeks in the wake of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman who fell to her death from a High Park balcony while police were in her apartment.
In recent days, activists have renewed calls to “defund” the force’s $1 billion-plus budget and redirect resources to community support services.
Asked about the calls to defund police on Monday, Saunders said: “If we get it right then there needs to be other agencies that satisfy the needs of the community. In the absence of that, things will not work… The number of shootings out there are high and the number of guns that are out there are high.”