Thanks for your service, Chief. It’s time to go

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair speaks to media about the Iaccobucci Report, 24 July 2014 © Toronto Police Service

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair will tell the Police Services Board this afternoon whether he would like to stay on the job for another term.  He’s done an outstanding job as Chief.  But,
Blair was appointed to a five year term as Chief on April 26, 2005.  It was renewed in 2009 and his current term expires in April 2015.  As I see it, he’s done a great job keeping the city safe.

Some people lost faith with Blair after the G-20 riots in 2010.  But, although there were many problems with the security management of that issue, it would be manifestly unfair to place the blame solely on Blair’s shoulders.  The federal government had overall responsibility for security and, when all is said and done, no buildings were bombed, no mass murders occurred,, no terrorists struck.

Blair was the right chief at the right time and he’s done a good job protecting our city from crime.  But, he’s had a number of run-ins with the Police Services Board and bristles at civilian oversight.  Sometimes, that’s been an entirely appropriate response.  Too many times, however, it’s been inappropriate.

The police budget is expanding at an unsustainable rate and Blair displays no interest in the type of transformative change required to address the issue.  He should take a well-deserved retirement knowing that he led the nation’s largest and most complex municipal law enforcement agency and he did it well.

In the next five years, Toronto’s Police Service will need a new leader with vision and energy and an ability to lead major transformative change.  That leader must be an experienced police officer, because only someone who’s worn a police uniform and walked a beat, worked a crime scene and earned his rank will be respected enough by the rank and file to follow him or her through a major change that will be unsettling for many.

But, our next police chief should not come from within the ranks of the Toronto Police Service.  The service needs an injection of fresh blood and new ideas.  The Police Services Board should take the next year to cast a wide net and find the world’s next, best police chief.  She or he should take command with a mandate to reshape Toronto’s police service in a 2.0 version ready to excel and surpass the challenges of the next 40 years.