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Saunders launches investigation after officer's critical comments surface

Last Updated Jul 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm EDT

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders has launched a professional standards investigation following explosive comments made by a member of the Toronto Police Service.

In a letter to mayor John Tory, veteran police officer Mark Hayward says Tory is a ‘direct contributor’ to the recent spate of gun violence and he called on the mayor to step aside and let the police do their job.

“You enjoyed a relatively safe city while police were engaged in proactive activities, interdicting and disrupting gang activity,” reads Hayward’s letter. “Since this came to an end in 2016 we have seen a steady and dramatic increase in gun violence and are faced with a homicide rate that is on track to set a new record for Toronto.”

Hayward cites the cancellation of the TAVIS program, the demise of carding along with police budget and staff cuts as the reason for the increase in gun violence and homicides in Toronto.

“You are ‘dammed mad’ but refuse to accept any blame for this crisis.”

In a statement released late Friday evening, Saunders noted that there were “conflicting points” between what has been reported in the media and what their own investigation had uncovered.

“We will get answers and, if misconduct is determined, the officer will be disciplined,” said Saunders.

“We will not be distracted by those who are trying to hinder our modernization efforts.”

In a statement Saturday afternoon, Tory says he supports Saunders and the city’s police services board “100 per cent,” and he blames the head of the police union for what he calls “a dangerous set of tactics.”

Mike McCormack “could be a partner with us in our fight to rid our streets of the gun violence we’ve seen recently,” Tory says, adding, “Unfortunately, he has chosen not to be.”

Tory accuses McCormack of holding up shift schedule changes that would allow the city to “deploy more officers where we need them.”

McCormack did not mince words in responding to the mayor’s statement, calling it an attempt to distract from the surge of shootings that has gripped the city in recent weeks.

“He’s deflecting towards me. Well, I got big shoulders – so be it,” McCormack said in a phone interview Saturday.

“But that’s really not helping the dialogue.”

Regarding Tory’s allegation that McCormack had held up changes to shift schedules that would have helped the force deploy more officers where they are needed, the union head was equally blunt.

“You can’t deploy officers you don’t have,” he said.

“We just don’t have the resources, and the mayor knows that.”

He said hundreds more officers are needed to deal with the issues the city faces.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report