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Toronto police board head stepping down

Jun 18 2015 TORONTO - The long-serving chair of Toronto's police oversight board will step down at the end of July, partway through his term.

Alok Mukherjee, who joined the board in 2004 and steered it through controversies over the G20 conference, rising police costs and carding, announced his resignation at today's meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.

As recently as last month, he told The Globe and Mail that he planned to serve the remaining year of his provincial appointment to the board. But he decided "the time has come to move on," he said Thursday in a prepared speech.

According to a source, Mr. Mukherjee informed the mayor only on Wednesday evening that he planned to resign the next morning.


June 18, 2015
By Corrie Sloot

Jun 18 2015

TORONTO – The long-serving chair of Toronto’s police oversight board will step down at the end of July, partway through his term.

Alok Mukherjee, who joined the board in 2004 and steered it through controversies over the G20 conference, rising police costs and carding, announced his resignation at today’s meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.

As recently as last month, he told The Globe and Mail that he planned to serve the remaining year of his provincial appointment to the board. But he decided “the time has come to move on,” he said Thursday in a prepared speech.

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According to a source, Mr. Mukherjee informed the mayor only on Wednesday evening that he planned to resign the next morning.

The source said that Andy Pringle, a friend and former chief of staff to Mayor John Tory, will step in as interim chair, as mandated under the Ontario Police Services Act, but has no plans to stay on in the role for the long-term.

Still, Mr. Pringle – whose seat on the board has expired and is up for renewal – has applied for reappointment, the source said. That appointment must be confirmed by the city’s civic appointments committee next week, and city council as early as next month.

Mr. Pringle, who joined the board in the fall of 2011, raised money for Mr. Tory’s mayoral campaign and worked for the mayor when he was leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

The businessman came under fire in the fall of 2013 when Councillor Doug Ford revealed that Mr. Pringle had taken then-police chief Bill Blair on a road trip to New Brunswick the year before to go salmon fishing.

Councillor Shelley Carroll, also a member of the police board, told The Globe that she learned this morning of Mr. Mukherjee’s resignation and the suggestions that Mr. Pringle would succeed him.

However, she said there are many people who will help make the decision about the new chair, and appointing Mr. Pringle would likely raise concerns among many on City Council, who would need to approve the choice.

“He has done some fine work on the board, yes, but council still makes their decision in a bigger, broader way, and they’ll be looking at those bigger issues, such as is he too close to the mayor, or is he too much of the old order, having been a friend of the former chief, when we’re trying to make a change with a new chief,” Ms. Carroll said.

She said the $90,963-a-year job will likely go to one of the citizen members of the board rather than a councillor.

“Toronto Police Service is now so large that it really is a full-time job to be chair of the board,” she said. “… You’d very much be looking at a citizen appointee. But you know, council is 44 people and they have a few weeks to think about this.”

After growing friction with the police union and former police chief Bill Blair, Mr. Mukherjee had told Mayor Tory last year he would step aside once a new chief was selected. Mark Saunders succeeded Mr. Blair as police chief in April.

In January, the new board voted 6-1 to give Mr. Mukherjee another one-year term, including a vote in his favour by Mr. Tory. At the same time, the board voted unanimously to appoint Mr. Pringle to the role of vice-chair, though officially, his term had expired. Council’s Civic Appointments Committee has been in the process this month of deciding whether to renew it.

Much of Mr. Mukherjee’s final year heading the board was dominated by a war of attrition with then-chief Bill Blair after years of problems that began during preparation for the G20 in the summer of 2010.

Things nearly boiled over last December after Mr. Mukherjee posted a controversial note on his Facebook page about American police killings, leading the police union to demand his resignation. In the meantime, a long-time debate over the issue of carding – the widespread police practice of stopping and interviewing residents not suspected of a crime – was bringing Mr. Mukherjee into a confrontation with Mr. Blair.

Mr. Mukherjee said in his resignation announcement that carding is a “troubling” issue the board will need to confront.

“We have dedicated significant time and resources to this issue,” he said. “And while we now await the direction that the province has promised to provide, we must set out in no uncertain terms our expectation of the kind of policing we want to see in this community.”

(Globe and Mail)


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