Chief misled public about car color scheme

Toronto's police chief admitted during an online Q&A that he misled the public about why he ordered an aggressive new color scheme for city police cars

In a surprising statement today,
Until today, the Chief had shrugged off every question about why the stealthy new grey colour was chosen, by explaining it was part of modernisaunders1zing the beleaguered Toronto police service.  In an online Twitter Q&A session today, however, he admitted that wasn’t true.


“There was no scientific or operational reason. It was a change that I made. It wasn’t to modernize the police service.”

– Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, today

A video of the chief’s answer can be found here. A full transcript of his remarks appears below this post.

“No operational reason” opens door for oversight board

When asked, during the October 12 Twitter Q&A, why Toronto’s police cars would be changing to the highly aggressive paint scheme, Chief Saunders did a 180º about-face, denying the decision was part of the ongoing modernization of policing program. In fact, he went further by taking full personal responsibility for the decision and admitting there was no scientific or operational reason for the change. His admission leaves the colour change squarely in the hands of the Toronto’s Police Service Board, the civilian body that oversees the chief.

While the TPSB is prohibited by law from interfering with operational police matters, the Chief made it clear that the colour change was not an operational matter.  His statement has cleared the way for the board to act in the best interests of the people of Toronto, by reversing this offensive and ill-considered decision.

“The fleet was old and was about to be changed.  So I made the change to the colour as well.”

Chief Saunders

It wasn’t the only revision of facts, offered up by the police chief on this issue.  saunders3

He also said today that the “fleet was old” and “about to be changed.”  Previously, he argued the fleet was regularly replaced on a continuous, life-cycle basis. It’s difficult to tell in such a brief statement, whether he means something different today.

It’s not only the new paint scheme that looks more aggressive.  The shape and styling of the new cars, based on a Ford Fusion vehicle, is more aggressive as well.

Ford is one of the few companies that make police car versions of their cars and the Fusion is Ford’s new police car – along with the Ford Explorer SUVs the police have been purchasing lately.  For decades, the go-to cop cruiser for many cities, including Toronto, was the Chevrolet Caprice police interceptor model. When Chevy stopped making it, Ford’s Crown Victoria took its place. Now the Crown Vic has been retired and replaced with the Fusion.

So, I don’t have any real qualms about the choice of the Fusion, despite its aggressive stance. It’s just the latest iteration of a mass-customized police vehicle. Or, I didn’t have any qualms until I watched Chief Saunders’ answer today. His explanation today, hints that he may have escalated the fleet replacement in order to change the vehicles. That’s worth a little investigating.  Because, were it true, it would be another scandal.

The final quibble I’ll point out: our good Chief of Police, it seems, is colour blind. He describes the new cars as “silver” – a deliberate tactic, no doubt dreamed up by his Communications Director, to make the cars sound gentler, more acceptable.  Seems, he won’t call them grey any more.  Why do you suppose that is?

Because even he admits “Gestapo Grey” is a bit too aggressive for Toronto’s finest.

Mayor John Tory & TPSB Chief Andrew Pringle:  The Chief has opened the door and is practically begging you to bail him out of this PR disaster he has wrought. He’s taken responsibility, falling on his own sword to protect the team.  “I made the decision myself… So I made the change… I switched them from white…”

Do the man a favour and countermand his order already!

Complete Transcript of Chief Mark Saunders answer to the question “How does colour change (of police cars) help modernization?”

“When I got on in 1982 the cars were yellow. When they changed from yellow to white there was public outrage that they changed to white. Now I switched them from white to silver and now there’s outrage from some people that they’re silver. A lot of people like the cars.

“I made the decision myself. There was no scientific or operational reason. It was a change that I made. It wasn’t to modernize the police service. The fleet was old and was about to be changed.  So I made the change to the colour as well.”

– Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders