Thursday, July 31st Commentary
There should be no tag days for Bill Blair when his contract as Chief of the Toronto Police Service expires in April of next year. He is too smart, too connected to sit in retirement for long. The chair of the Police Services Board Alok Mukarjee can spin this anyway he wants but it's clear to me that some of Blair's allies on the board abandoned him.
There is no way that he would have ever asked for a third five-year term had he known that the votes weren't there. So what happened? I'm not sure yet but I've been told that Blair was surprised and disappointed. At the same time this was probably the right decision. After a 10-year run as chief, it’s time for new leadership at the top especially in the wake of the report on the 84 ways police need to change the way they handle suspects who are mentally ill or in emotional crisis. That change is essential and I'm sure Chief Blair knows that but with a new chief, the slate would be clean to innovate.
So where do we go from here. The board has KPMG doing a search. We hear that more than one member of the board wants the search to be international in scope. A few seem to want someone from the outside while others think there's plenty of talent inside or who had spent years on the force before taking promotions elsewhere.
Mike McCormack, president of the Police Association was on NewsTalk 1010's Showgram with Jim Richards yesterday talking about what the rank and file want.
“I think that what we look for within the police service and from the policing culture is that we have to have respect for the leader. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything that they’re doing but we have to have the notion that they’re doing it for the right reasons and we have to have respect for that leader and have that leader have empathy and understanding of what we do in the policing community.” said McCormack.
Among the names being bandied about:
Deputy chief Peter Sloly, born in Jamaica, raised in Toronto since the age of 10 and the rising star of the Toronto Police Service. He's only 48 and already Deputy Chief. His big backer on the board is vice-chair Michael Thompson who once said of Sloly it's not a question of if, but when he becomes chief.
Another Deputy Chief, Mark Saunders, also born in Jamaica. His cheerleader on the board is the chair Alok Mukarjee.
I'm hearing Sloly is not well liked on the force because he rose so fast in the ranks while Saunders is considered a "cop's cop" who has done it all...working in the gang unit, the drug squad, ETF, Homicide and at the divisional level. He's in on every major investigation including the probe of Rob Ford.
A third intriguing possibility is Kim Greenwood who left the Toronto Service as a Staff Superintendent to become the first woman chief of police in Barrie, where she is today.
The Niagara police chief Jeff McGuire also cut his teeth at TPS and for the last two years in Niagara has done an excellent job of improving community relations but McGuire is a white guy and that doesn't seem to be what the Police Services Board wants.
If you happen to come across a story that city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is thinking about bringing this matter to city council next month to try to get Bill Blair his job back...ignore it. City council has no say over who the police chief is and whether the chief's contract is extended or not. Yes the council could exert pressure by threatening the police budget or by rescinding city appointments to the Police board but that's just not going to happen...not with an election 3 months away.