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Chief Bill Blair talks carding, his final months on the job

12/23/2014 05:55 EST | Updated 02/22/2015 05:59 EST
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair says his organization has adjusted its use of carding in response to community concerns, but must still find a way to make inroads in priority neighbourhoods in order to keep people safe. 

During a year-end interview with the CBC's Dwight Drummond, Blair was asked about whether the practice of carding was alienating some of the people living in these areas.

Blair said police can't move forward without the support of the public, which is why his service has focused on engaging community members.

He said the police also have a "particular priority" to do this in parts of the city where there are high rates of violence and victimization.

"We have a responsibility to those communities and those neighbourhoods and all of those young people to help keep them safe, but it only works when we do it in a respectful relationship with them," Blair said Tuesday.

"And so anything that jeopardizes that relationship is something we're very concerned about and working very hard to address and overcome. But at the same time, I need my officers in those neighbourhoods and those neighbourhoods need my officers."

The chief said that police have significantly curbed the practice of carding in response to community concerns.

"Over the last two years, we've seen a 97 per cent reduction in the number of those contacts which result in the completion of those cards and the gathering of that information," he said.

'A political decision is made'

Next spring, the chief's tenure will be coming to an end, following the police board's decision not to renew his contract.

Blair said that outcome was a disappointment, but not a surprise.

"All of my predecessors who had five-year appointments before, all of them reached a point where a political decision is made," he said. "I was very fortunate, I've had two terms in this office."

Knowing this, Blair said he was aware a similar scenario would emerge at the end of his contract.

"I am rarely surprised by politics, I pay attention to the environment in which I was operating and quite frankly, it didn't come as a great shock to me. I am and was disappointed, but it was not unanticipated," he said.

With Blair's exit on the horizon, the police board will be looking to identify his successor in the near future.

"Whoever takes over this office is taking over a great organization with a great team of people in the best city in the world to be the police chief," said Blair.

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