Published Monday, June 8, 2020 2:28PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 8, 2020 5:14PM EDT
“I have watched this organization from start to finish, grow, learn, listen, and serve the greatest, fourth-largest city on the North American continent and the most diverse city in the world,” Saunders said. “I have also met and made some of the best partnerships and friendships while in office of the chief.
“Therefore it is not with a heavy heart that effective July 31 of this year, I will relinquish my seat as chief of police of the Toronto Police Service.”
His tenure saw several years of increased homicide rates, going from 59 in his first year to 96 in 2018.
He also oversaw responses to two catastrophic events in the city’s history, including the 2018 North York Van Attack and the Danforth Mass Shooting.
Last year the Toronto Police Services Board extended Saunders’ term by another year, which meant that he was scheduled to keep the job until 2021.
Saunders said he made the decision to leave sooner in order to put family first.
“Family is the most important thing to me right now. Sorry if anyone is shocked in a bad way. This organization is a really strong organization. I see lots of great things are going to happen,” he said, adding that he is very pleased with the command officers who are in their current roles.
“In my 37 plus years I’ve never had an August off. This is the first time I’ll have an August off with my family. I’m not sure what to do yet but I’m looking forward to it,” Saunders said.
Among his proudest achievements he listed the services’ transformational taskforce.
He said that while his announcement may come as a surprise to some, he feels he is leaving the service in good hands.
“In the environment we are in, we have COVID-19 and there’s no way I could leave this organization unless I was satisfied the men and women in this organization were in a safe spot,” he said.
Will continue working out of uniform
Saunders said while he’s not sure yet what will come next for him, he wants to volunteer in the city to continue making a contribution, particularly around gun violence.
“I see a lot of young black boys getting killed by young black boys,” Saunders said. “Law enforcement deals with the symptoms.”
He said he’d like to do something to help address the roots and is looking forward to being a “free agent.”
“Thank you Toronto. Look forward to working with you for the next two months,” he said, ending out the news conference.