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Toronto's new police chief acknowledged yesterday that the problem of racism goes beyond just a few bad apples, and said the force needs to address it systematically from the top down.

"The only way to fight the problem of racism in our service is by addressing it as part of the organizational culture. It has to be part of the culture of the Toronto Police Service that people will be treated with respect and that we value diversity. The analogy of a few bad apples quite frankly just doesn't work," chief-designate Bill Blair said in an interview yesterday. "I don't think it explains it and it doesn't enable us to address it organizationally.

"If you respect the concerns that people have around issues of racial bias, and we do accept their concerns, then you can't just sort of lay it off on the conduct of a few people. I think we have a responsibility to look at our organizational culture."

Chief-designate Blair vowed to take a strong stand against racism and racial discrimination in policing.

He said although there are many strong leaders in the police who believe in treating everyone fairly and with respect, the issue of race has had a corrosive effect on the relationship between the citizens of Toronto and their police force.

He also said he will encourage frank discussions with leaders of Toronto's diverse communities.

Speaking with The Globe and Mail after his first police services board meeting since he was given the chief's job, chief-designate Blair revealed in greater detail how he plans to put his mark on the force. He will officially become chief as soon as he reaches a contract agreement with the board and is sworn in, a process expected to take about 10 days.

A graduate of Canada's only MBA-style police executive program, conducted through the University of Toronto, chief-designate Blair talked about finding ways to create greater efficiencies in policing.

He indicated his willingness to accept Mayor David Miller's suggestions on reorganizing police shifts to ensure more officers are working at the busiest times, and fewer when things are quiet, and he said he will not ask the board for more money until he has conducted a full review of the organization's practices.

He sidestepped the issue of drug testing for officers, which was part of the Ferguson report issued in the wake of the drug squad scandal, saying it was something that had to be considered very carefully.

Dave Wilson, head of the Toronto Police Association, said his members are cautiously optimistic about the new chief but are waiting to see where he stands on drug tests before making any judgments.

Chief-designate Blair also pledged a renewed emphasis on community policing.

"I think the city of Toronto and the people in our neighbourhoods want to see more community policing, but I don't think they want to see us doing soft things. I think they want us to be more effective in making their community safe. I think they want us to work with them and show some respect for one another and get them involved."

He said that although he wouldn't describe himself as a disciple of Jane Jacobs, he has read all her books and they have influenced the way he thinks about policing.

" The Death and Life of Great American Cities made me start to think about neighbourhoods," he said.

"It made me think about what made neighbourhoods safe."

When he was working in 51 Division, he recalls having persistent problems with the Allen Gardens area, which was a magnet for drugs and other kinds of crime.

Property values were in decline, people were moving out of the area and its reputation was terrible.

"That was a dangerous place and we were policing the daylights out of it," he said.

But then he rethought his strategy. He put uniform officers in the park to reassure the community, he cracked down on drunk and disorderly conduct, and worked to find help for the alcoholics who slept in the park.

He worked with the city to trim the hedges and add new lighting, and to organize community events that would draw activity to the area.

"More people come, and all of a sudden it's a good place. People feel really comfortable there and the criminals have to go off to some other place, because that's not a good place to do what they're doing."