Scathing letter from police officer prompts investigation by Toronto Chief

Toronto's police chief says a professional standards investigation has been launched after an officer wrote a scathing letter accusing Mayor John Tory of being a direct contributor to the city's gun violence.

Mark Saunders says in a statement issued Friday night that the officer — who he does not name — will be disciplined if he is found to have committed misconduct.

The letter from Mark Hayward, addressed to Tory and first reported by Global News, blames the mayor for the decision to cancel the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) in 2016, which the letter says deprived police of a crucial tool in keeping violent street gangs at bay.

In the letter, Hayward calls Saunders "a puppet on strings," which he says are pulled by the mayor.

Saunders says there are "conflicting points between what has been reported in the media and what our investigation has uncovered," but he does not expand on what those points are.

He says TAVIS was cancelled as part of a modernization effort that includes 32 recommendations from members of the public and "highly trained members of the service."

Saunders says the force remains steadfastly focused on its effort to curb violence, and "will not be distracted by those who are trying to hinder our modernization efforts."

Tory, meantime, has said the head of the police union, Mike McCormack, is behind a campaign using what he calls 'a dangerous set of tactics.'

"The president of the union has been an absolute roadblock for most of the time in actually making some of the changes to the shift rules and things like that, that will allow us to have more police officers deployed on the street," Tory told CP24 on Saturday.

"It's time to join the partnership, make some changes and make sure that we can deploy police officers where they're needed, when they're needed, and quite frankly the union president has been standing in the way of that."

Mayor John Tory has since responded to Hayward's letter. Here is his full statement:

"Chief Mark Saunders said Friday that 'we will not be distracted by those trying to hinder our modernization effort.' I support the Chief and the Toronto Police Services Board 100 per cent.

There's an internal investigation by the police into this email and so I'm not going to say a lot more other than to say I understand there are conflicting points between what has been reported and what the investigation has revealed. The police will sort that out. 

What's clear to me is that this is part of a campaign by the head of the police union Mike McCormack. And it's a dangerous set of tactics. 

As the president of the union, Mr. McCormack could be a partner with us in our fight to rid our streets of the gun violence we've seen recently. Unfortunately, he has chosen not to be. In fact he has fought us every step of the way over the last two years. I think that's deeply regrettable.

He could have more readily agreed to make changes around shift schedules that would allow us to deploy more officers where we need them, but he didn't do that and we've lost two years. 

Throughout these difficult times in our city, I have been focused on supporting the Chief in his quest to strengthen the police presence through hiring and redeployment and advocating for tougher gun and bail laws. But, at the same time, I have also focused on trying to do more to strengthen communities, to help them to minimize some of this criminal activity and maximize opportunity, safety and hope for them and for their children. 

I will continue to do that work hand in hand with our Chief using every ounce of effort I have. Others will have to decide whether they want to partner with all communities and all governments or continue with statements and activities which hurt more than help."

- With files from NEWSTALK1010