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Toronto Police Services Chief Bill Blair, left, and incoming Chief Mark Saunders chat during a reception honour of his retirement at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario April 23, 2015.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

In his parting words as police chief, Bill Blair asked officers to reach across cultural divisions – including, perhaps, those that separate them from civilians.

"More than half the citizens of our city have chosen to come here," Chief Blair, two days before ending his 10-year term, told hundreds of top-ranking Toronto Police Service officers at his retirement gala dinner on Thursday.

"The reason they've chosen to come here is because this is a place of inclusion," he said. "It's more than merely tolerance… it is an example to the world."

Chief Blair was appointed in April 2005, the youngest-ever Toronto police chief at the time. After a career partly spent walking a beat in Regent Park, his term was marked by breaks with tradition. On the day of his appointment, he acknowledged publicly that racial profiling existed within the force. He went on to heavily recruit women and members of ethnic minorities.

Ten years later, Chief Blair is ending his policing career amid criticism related to racial profiling, as well as much praise over his wider work as chief. One of his last acts as chief was to negotiate future terms for a policy that has long angered Toronto's black communities–"carding," in which officers stop and question people who aren't suspected of a crime.

He has said repeatedly that the practice, which many critics would like to see abolished, is a useful public safety tool.

But in Thursday's speech, he also asked officers in general terms to understand others' perspectives.

"Let us all be careful," he said. "Let us be careful that we do not succumb to…those forces, that would divide us, those forces which would separate us, those forces that would make us afraid of each other.

"Let us always be careful to return to each other, to support each other, and to be that place of social cohesion and inclusion that we should all aspire to be," he said. "Because that's what makes the city of Toronto, the country of Canada, an extraordinary place."

He received a standing ovation.

The chair of the civilian board that oversees the force, Alok Mukherjee, has faced off against Chief Blair in the past year over the carding issue. As a member of the board 10 years ago, he was on the hiring committee that settled on him, he recalled in an interview at the gala.

"What I remember, what was so striking about him, was his passion for social justice," said Mr. Mukherjee. "And he spoke really passionately about the life of young people…it was a very community-based view of policing, neighbourhood-based."

Mr. Mukherjee said he had "no question" that hiring Chief Blair was the right decision, and said the force needs to keep building on the chief's philosophy that policing goes beyond fighting crime. When asked if Chief Blair accomplished everything he laid out in his job interview, Mr. Mukherjee paused.

"It's a transformative vision, and when you're working in an organization that is very tradition-bound, you have the challenge of taking 8,000 people and moving them along a new path," he said.

"That's a massive job. I think he was successful to the extent that that vision is now accepted. The discussion, or the division, maybe, is what are the ways to get there?"

Other speakers at the gala included Mayor John Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne, who arrived after spending the day presenting the provincial budget. She recalled working with Chief Blair's beat cops in her old constituency as an MPP.

On Sunday, Deputy Chief Mark Saunders will take over as police chief.

Chief Blair has been approached by different parties to run in the upcoming federal election. He has said he will announce his plans after he steps down as chief.