Toronto police Chief Bill Blair: Will he stay or go?

Toronto's top cop has overseen some turbulent times during his two terms in office — everything from the Rob Ford scandal to the G20 summit arrests and the controversial police shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim — and now he must decide whether he will seek a third five-year term.

Toronto's top cop must decide today if he will pursue a third 5-year term

Bill Blair must indicate today whether he will seek a third five-year term as Toronto's chief of police.

Blair has been Toronto's top cop for almost a decade, guiding Canada's largest municipal force as it faced the turmoil of the G20 Summit, a number of high-profile shootings and an investigation of its own mayor.

Even if Blair wants to continue in the role, the city's Police Services Board ultimately makes the final decision.

The civilian oversight body has 30 days to respond to Blair's request, should he say he wants to keep the job. Most city hall watchers expect the 60-year-old Scarborough native will pursue a third term.

Under Blair's watch, the police force has dealt with turbulent times. Including:

  • Sammy Yatim shooting: The 18-year-old was shot multiple times and killed during a confrontation with police as he stood aboard an empty Toronto streetcar last summer. Video of the shooting that was widely circulated online stirred widespread outrage. Yatim was holding a knife but was not advancing toward a large group of officers when he was shot. He was also Tasered after the shooting. Blair called for an outside report into police use of force during confrontations with emotionally disturbed people or those with a history of mental illness. Released Thursday, the report made 84 recommendations. Most focused on changing police training, tactics and hiring to put a new emphasis on de-escalation with a goal of avoiding violent confrontations. Blair was front and centre at the news conference, vowing the report would gain momentum, not dust. Const. James Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting.
  • G20 Summit: More than 1,000 people were arrested during the G20 Summit in June 2010. Police were slammed for using excessive force and many peaceful protesters were swept up in mass arrests, some illegally. Blair admitted mistakes were made during the G20.
  • Rob Ford probe: Toronto police conducted surveillance of Toronto's mayor last year after news stories broke about a video the reports said showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine. Last fall, Blair admitted that police had in their possession a tape consistent with those reports. That stirred anger from the Ford camp. Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, accused Blair of bias. Rob Ford, who concluded a 60-day stint in rehab last month, and has since admitted to a longstanding battle with alcohol and drug abuse, is running for re-election on Oct. 27. Rob Ford faces no criminal charges as a result of the probe.

John Sewell is a former Toronto mayor and member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.

In an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Sewell said Blair's term has produced mixed results for the city.

He said the G20 Summit, which Toronto hosted in 2010, was badly handled.

"G20 is probably the really big thing that looms over [Blair]," said Sewell. "This disaster happened in the city with over 1,000 people being arrested for no reason at all."

Sewell said not all the blame for the G20 debacle can be laid at Blair's feet, saying the Police Services Board didn't give the chief enough oversight and direction.

Sewell also had praise for Blair, saying he has made strides in bringing diversity to the force.

"We're getting a police force that looks a lot more like Toronto," said Sewell. "We've got a long way to go, but he's been very good about that."

Sewell also said Blair has helped keep the force separate from the political process and that he has been a good communicator.

Blair is expected to submit his decision to the Police Services Board before the end of today.