“People will say, ‘Who are you to criticize the chief? “- and I don’t want to do it the hard way, but,” said Fernandes, “in my opinion, he didn’t deliver. ”
Saunders shocked many by announcing on Monday that he would resign from his position as chief of police in Toronto on July 31 – eight months before his contract expires.
Fernandes, however, was not surprised.
“I predicted it. Many things are not going well for him – black crime on black, fusion. Nothing works, ”said Fernandes.
Born in Tanzania and trained in Calcutta and Scotland, where he obtained his aeronautical engineering diploma, Fernandes was one of the few colored officers when he joined the Toronto police in 1971 and the first minority visible to be promoted to inspector.
He remembers expectations were high in 2015 when Saunders was appointed the first black chief of police in Toronto.
However, little has been accomplished under his mandate to combat racism within the organization or reduce violence decimating the black community, accuses 72-year-old Fernandes.
“People expected him to suppress racism that has raged for decades and it has not progressed compared to any other leader,” he said.
And, he adds, the chief’s massive modernization plan never really materialized despite the promises made in the task force’s 2017 report, Action Plan: The Way Forward.
“On paper, it looked great, but it was just smoke and mirrors,” he said. “The base and the file became agitated and bored. They did not join.
“They won’t miss it – 86% of members voted (in a 2018 union poll) for their leadership. ”
Fernandes himself was the victim of this modernization plan. As unit commander of 32 Division, his position was eliminated when Saunders merged his division with 33. He was transferred to headquarters to head the Toronto Police Operations Center.
“I was buried there,” he says. He therefore resigned in January 2019.
It has since been dismayed to observe that armed violence has escalated throughout the city with not enough concrete action from Saunders beyond a few initial arrests of “bandages” and assurances of “don’t worry, you’re safe ”because the shots are targeted and gangs-related.
Fernandes still thinks it was a mistake to completely eliminate “carding” because it emboldened street thugs.
“Before, they hid them, but now everyone is carrying weapons because they know the cops’ hands are tied. And so the shooting continues over and over again, ”he said.
At the same time, Fernandes acknowledges that street controls were too often abused by agents who unfairly targeted black men. Racism within TPS – which affects all walks of life and all genders – has yet to be firmly combated, he complains.
It was therefore surprising to hear him criticize the chief for his daring decision to take a knee during a black anti-racism demonstration a few days ago.
“I didn’t like it at all. My opinion is that the leader should be a “beacon of impartiality”, not do what these protesters would like to see or be intimidated by solidarity. Does kneeling (some officers saluting the Black Power) show concerns about racism? ” he asks.
“He was so afraid that these people would go crazy like the G20 riots and he didn’t want that on his watch. ”
Saunders bowed at a tumultuous moment. The future chef being faced with unenviable challenges, Fernandes is invited to offer some advice.
“He or she must surround themselves with extremely bright people who can be progressive, modernize and move forward without fear of being criticized,” he said. “She must be good in race relations, not just with the black community, but with everyone. And the person must be accepted by the base. ”
It is a daunting challenge, facilitated by the retirement chair, but supported by almost half a century of policing.