The results of a symbolic no confidence vote by Toronto police officers reveals 86 per cent of the membership do not have confidence in the job being done by Chief Mark Saunders.
However, it appears less than half of the 8,000 membership took part in the online vote which was conducted over the last week.
The vote was launched after Saunders came under fire from the police union over recommendations made in the Transformational Task Force plan.
Just as the results of the vote were being released, the Toronto Police Services Board issued a statement in which they “fully and unequivocally” indicated their support for the chief.
“We know that modernization of our police service is necessary,” the board said. “We also know that it is difficult. We are keenly aware of the challenges this substantial change poses for our members, both uniform and civilian, as well as their families. But we also believe that the organization will emerge from this transformation stronger, more effective and more responsive to, and trusted by, the community.”
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack acknowledged that while the union has no power to remove Saunders — that rests with the police services board — the membership is looking forward to hearing from Saunders in response to the vote.
“Did we expect anything less than dismissiveness from it, no,” said McCormack. “What we are trying to do is to say we have reached a breaking point where we need to have some discussion about meaningful real actions.
“Over 2,600 people saying, ‘We’ve lost confidence, we feel that the direction is wrong,’ you can’t dismiss that.”
The union claims officers are overworked and understaffed, a concern that was echoed by families of Toronto police officers who held a rally outside Toronto Police headquarters on Monday.
Chief Saunders said the implementation of modernization, including strategic hiring, which is scheduled to begin this year, will help the police service work more efficiently.
“[it’s a] misnomer with I’m not listening. I’m listening loud and clear,” he said.
“If you look historically at our journey that we’ve taken, it hasn’t been a straight line. We’ve made changes and adjustments as we go, which is important, and part of that is to listen to what the concerns are and move and pivot properly and in accordance with what needs to be done to move things forward.”
On Tuesday, Saunders told Breakfast Television it wasn’t a matter of not having enough officers in Toronto, but that deployment was the issue to tackle.
Saunders has also come under scrutiny for the way the police service has handled several high profile investigations of late, including the deaths of billionaire Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey and the disappearance of several men from Toronto’s Gay Village, which ultimately yeilded the arrest of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.