The chief of Toronto police unexpectedly announced he will step down at the end of next month, just hours after a city councillor launched an effort to cut the force’s budget by 10 per cent amid widespread protests across North America against police brutality.

While Chief Mark Saunders gave no indication he was leaving under pressure, his exit creates an absence at the top of the Toronto Police Service as it and other forces face increasingly strident calls for some of their budgets to be allocated elsewhere.

Saunders said the emergence of young protesters calling for police to be held accountable for violence against marginalized communities was an opportunity for dialogue.

“What I liked about the protest is we’ve got our young engaged,” he said at a news conference on Monday, noting in the past adults would often speak on their behalf.

“Now they’re coming to the table, this is a fantastic opportunity for all of us,” he said.

Saunders, one of the first Black chiefs of a Canadian police force, said he would step down on July 31 — eight months before his contract was up — but that he would remain engaged in the challenge of reducing violent crime within Black communities.

“I see a lot of young Black boys getting killed by young Black boys,” he said. “Law enforcement deals with those symptoms and I want to help find the cure for the disease.”

Saunders, who had been in the top job for five years, said he informed Mayor John Tory and the police board of his decision early last week.

Meanwhile, city councillor Josh Matlow is proposing that a tenth of the force’s $1 billion-plus budget be shifted to community investments that would “enhance resiliency in marginalized communities", including community-led alternatives to policing and the criminal justice system, anti-racism education, affordable housing and tenant rights, food security and skills training.

“We recognize that many of the impediments to community safety will not be solved by the police,” he said. “Too many people are unable to access the life-saving resources they need to thrive, while growing affordability, mental health and addictions crises are having massive health and safety impacts.”

The move follows a pledge from a majority of Minneapolis’ city council to dismantle that city’s police force and replace it with an alternative model in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Toronto's police chief says he will step down at the end of July, while a city councillor is proposing a 10 per cent cut to the force's 2021 budget.

But Toronto’s mayor is instead focused on getting more officers wearing body cameras, and more police training and community outreach, and Matlow acknowledged the motion is unlikely to succeed.

“The truth in Toronto is that, as it stands now, it’ll be challenging to even get 10 per cent approved at council, given that we have a mayor and majority who still haven’t committed their support,” Matlow said in a tweet.

“We need to get this door open and need your help,” he added. “Please email the mayor and your councillor.”

Alastair Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

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How about re framing the discussion? Instead of "defunding police", how about "augmenting police"? How about adding parallel support services to assist the police? Sure, take the funds out of the police budget, since those budgets are there to enable the police to do a lot of things they are not really able to do anyway, but frame the discussion in a positive way for the community and for the police. Take the politics and the binary choice out of the equation. Talk instead about what the needs are. Use people like the now former police chief to help remove the BS from the equation. There is no easy answer to some of the issues that need to be addressed; but he is right on when he says that the police too often deal with the symptoms of society's ills. They are not trained, nor able to solve the causal factors behind the symptoms.

I am already finding the "defund police" unhelpfully strident and negative.

"Divert funds"; or " Fund community safety". would be more accurate and less likely to get police lover citizens' back up and ears closed "snap:. lalala not listening !"

I'd divert plenty of money for a program to reward whistleblowers with bonus pay andlor promotions. Hungry for advancement? Just bust your boss.
There should also me more training in how to not need weapons than in how to use them.
When the Police are respectable, they get respect. However, if they are just caught in the middle of a widening wealth gap, they can't be good, because they always protect owners, not paupers.

The foregoing comments are all on point. and it is not just the police - it is the entire justice system that needs to be "re-framed". Even in Canada incarceration rates are wildly skewed against minorities. Things like the bail system, are holdovers from the infamous "debtors prisons" of the Dickensian era. We need, not just technical modernizations of policing, but attitude modernization and the inclusion of psychological/psychiatric mentors and monitors. We need police academy training that includes interning in psychiatric facilities, LTC facilities, prisons. hospitals; and criminal justice courses that are indepth, evidence based explorations of "criminal behaviour" and the causes of those behaviours. Police cadets should be introduced to unarmed patrols in the hot spots and guided by activists in how to make meaningful contact with the over-policed communities.

Methinks that re-framing the academy lessons could well weed out the more problematic, psychologically unfit candidates.

When the "newbies" are assigned, their mentors should be the pick of the crop, no officer with records of questionable conduct need apply - indeed, those officers with dishonourable conduct reports should be re-assigned to corrective training at reduced pay. This, of course, will require re-negotiation with the unions. But this is the golden opportunity to rein in the unions - to make them less militant, in the face of the ill-repute they are earning.

I think a lot of people, especially people of colour, are upset with the police, often justifiably, and some have latched on to the "Defund the Police" slogan. Of course it depends upon what is defunded. If the defunding results in reduced police personnel, defunding could be counter productive. Putting the remaining police under increased pressure to respond to calls will not, I suspect, result in making them more responsive to community needs -- or more human in their approach to citizens. Policing properly is a hard job and it takes time. It takes a lot more time to talk a person out of being violent than using force against that person. There are areas of policing that might well be shifted to other agencies, like the response to people with mental health problems, and that could result in defunding the police department. Already in some communities this is done. However, police will always be required for backup in case situations turn violent. Police defunding will probably not result in less cost overall, but in more, since the administrative costs of the substituting agency will come to bear. I do think that there might be some savings by cutting back some of the military style high tech equipment the police may have bought. And I definitely think that putting expensive cameras on police, except in rare situations is NOT a good use of money. Technology will not solve attitude problems, or racism. Simple reason: cameras can and will be turned off or "malfunction," if an officer is intent on acting with inappropriate violence.

Defunding police does not mean getting rid of the police. It means having a core of highly trained officers for serious crimes and use the savings for community based police liaisons who get to know the community and troubleshoot rather than criminalize. All our police make more than 120K per year. We don't need every officer to be trained in hostage and tactical take downs. Multiple community liaison officers at 60 to 80K a year would bring a less para-military feel to local problem. We need to do a lot more talking and investigation into more humane ways of policing. The costs are also becoming prohibitive when you look at the percentage of municipal taxes goes to police and fire. Here's an interesting article.