86% of voting Toronto Police Association members have no confidence in Chief Saunders

The majority of members of the Toronto Police Association (TPA) say they have no confidence in the leadership of Chief Mark Saunders.

Nearly half of all Toronto Police Association members participated in online ballot

86 per cent of Toronto Police Association members who responded to an online vote say they have no confidence in Police Chief Mark Saunders. (CBC)

Eighty-six per cent of the Toronto Police Association (TPA) members who responded to an online vote say they have no confidence in Chief Mark Saunders.

Members were asked "do you have confidence in the Chief's leadership?" in a vote held between Feb. 14 and 21. Nearly half of members responded. 

In a statement, the TPA wrote that their "Board of Directors looks forward to hearing from Saunders in response to the membership's vote of no confidence in his ability to lead the Toronto Police Service."

"We are willing to work together with the Chief provided he is committed to finding tangible solutions to the staffing crisis that is impacting the health, wellness and safety of our members and the community," the TPA statement reads.

The no confidence vote came amid ongoing clashes with top brass at the Toronto Police Service over what the association describes as critical understaffing. Tensions have been brewing for months, with officers donning ball caps in protest last September. 

In interviews and statements, the TPA has painted a picture of a service in tatters, pointing to "deteriorating service" and understaffing, as well as ballooning 911 wait times and higher rates of officer attrition over mismanagement.

"We have had an abundance of our members come and tell us that they have lost confidence in the chief's ability to address their concerns with any sense of urgency," said TPA president Mike McCormack last Friday on CBC Radio. (John Rieti/CBC)

Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Services Board, which includes Toronto Mayor John Tory, said Thursday that it "fully and unequivocally" supports Chief Saunders. 

In a statement, the TPS board says it will continue to work with Saunders to ensure that the Toronto Police Service remains "an organization of excellence."

"We know that modernization of our police service is necessary.  We also know that it is difficult.  We are keenly aware of the challenges this substantial change poses for our members, both uniform and civilian, as well as their families.  But we also believe that the organization will emerge from this transformation stronger, more effective and more responsive to, and trusted by, the community," the statement says. 

"We believe, too that it will ultimately be a better place to work for all of our members.  We want our members to be meaningfully invested in our transformation, voicing their opinions and suggestions throughout in a constructive way. This has always been our position. This has not changed," it continues. 

Coun. Shelley Carroll, who sits on the board, says its decision to stand by the chief is based on the work he's doing to modernize of the police force and change the culture of the police service.

"All of the changes that are going on are for the better police treatment of the community, the protection and safety of the community and we're going to continue to stand by the chief because we're very much engaged in the work he is doing," Carroll said.

"I know that we have a force that's nervous because they're being asked to undergo unprecedented change; and any organization facing unprecedented change will have some anxiety, some frustration," she added, noting that the board is responding to the officers," she added.

TPA president Mike McCormack says the police service has been dismissive of officers’ concerns and they’ve had enough. (CBC News)

But TPA president Mike McCormack says the police force has been dismissive of the officers' concerns and they've had enough.

"We need to have appropriate staffing. [Saunders is] going to have to redeploy people. We're going to have to get people to the frontline and they're going to have to hire the right amount of people," McCormack said.

"We lost 232 uniformed positions last year; so far this year 102 have left and that's in the first six weeks." 

McCormack said almost 48 per cent of members participated in the vote, noting it's not a great day in policing when members take an action such as a no confidence vote in their leader.

"Let's talk about what the issues are. Let's fix them now. That's what we are asking," he said. 

"Our members have had enough."