Toronto's first black police chief to step down

"I'm a free agent now," Mark Saunders said at a news conference

Toronto's first black police chief to step down

Amid growing calls to reform the police force across North America, Toronto’s own police chief – and the first black man to hold the position – will be stepping down.

“I’m a free agent now,” Mark Saunders said at a news conference.

The decision was first shared with Mayor John Tory and Jim Hart, chair of the police services board, earlier this month. Saunders’ contract as police chief had initially been extended to April 2021.

READ MORE: Thousands attend anti-racism, anti-police brutality march

“I’ve always given it 100%, and it’s time to say, ‘Thank you, Toronto,’” he said. “Thank you, Toronto, for working with me during my tenure as the 10th chief of police for the Toronto Police Service. It is something I will cherish forever.”

Without going into detail, the police chief said a “whole host of reasons,” including his desire to spend more time with the family, led to his decision to resign eight months before his tenure was set to expire. He also said he wants to direct his attention to other community initiatives in the city.

Saunders will continue to serve as police chief until the end of July.

“I’m still here for another two months. It’s not like I’m walking off into the sunset. There are still some things that need to be tackled,” he said.

READ MORE: Police chief placed on leave over social media posts

Last week, the police chief and his deputies expressed solidarity with members of the community who have been calling for change in the police force. The officers took the knee as a symbol of their support for protesters.

In recent days, protesters have taken to the streets in major cities in the US, Canada and other countries to condemn the killing of George Floyd, the black American who died in police custody.

“We have to move past words. We’re tired of the words. Now it’s time to move towards action,” Saunders said at the time.

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