Toronto: The first black police chief of Canada’s largest city, Toronto, announced his sudden retirement on Monday, saying he would step down on July 31, just a year after he called for police reform with protesters .
Mark Saunders said he plans to spend more time with his family and hopes to work on a community initiative “near and dear”.
The City Council of Toronto voted in August 2019 to extend the Saunders contract to April 2021.
Last week, Saunders demonstrated with protesters against police brutality and decided the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.
He told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last week that Floyd’s death left him with a “terrible feeling” in his stomach.
“It still bothers me,” he said. “That’s not what law enforcement is trained to do.”
Saunders has been with the Toronto Police Service for 37 years, playing the role of Chief of Police since 2015.
“Working in homescience … I see a lot of young boys being killed by young black boys,” Saunders told reporters on Monday. “Law enforcement deals with those symptoms and I want to help treat the disease.”
Saunders, who suffered from kidney disease in 2017 and is undergoing a transplant, said health was not a factor in his decision to retire.
“We will continue to see the benefits of his work on modernization and culture change for years to come,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.
One of the councilors said in a tweet, on Monday, two city councilors in Toronto proposed a 10% reduction in the city’s police budget.
Calls to rescue police are increasing in the United States and Canada, with the city council of Minneapolis voting to completely destroy its police force.
Saunders said that if the funding was reduced, there should be “other agencies that meet the needs of the community. In the absence of that, things won’t work.”