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(From left) Barrie Police Chief Kim Greenwood, Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire, Niagara Police Chief Jeffrey McGuire

Canada's largest municipal police force is hunting for a new top cop after the announcement on Wednesday that the police board will not renew the contract of the current police chief, Bill Blair.

The next chief faces a near-impossible task: satisfy the demands of a cost-cutting police board without alienating rank-and-file officers or their powerful union.

Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee says he wants to conduct an "open broad-based search," perhaps even searching beyond Canada's borders for a suitable replacement.

One source familiar with the board's discussions told The Globe and Mail that the board believes only an outsider could push through the kind of change needed.

Here are some of the early favourites and dark horses:

1. Barrie Police Chief Kim Greenwood

Kim Greenwood spent 32 years with Toronto Police, rising to staff superintendent before leaving last year. Respected across law enforcement and political realms for her leadership and ability to apply new ideas within a profession that can be resistant to change, her departure was openly lamented by those who thought TPS brass should have done more to keep her in the Toronto fold.

2. Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire

Is he available or isn't he? Just a few months ago, the Hamilton Police Services Board announced it was looking for a new chief after Glenn De Caire tendered his resignation. But in June, he had an apparent change of heart, deciding to apply for a contract extension. During his tenure, violent crime in Hamilton has plummeted by 31.5 per cent over five years while officers have developed a reputation for transparency and empathy. But like Chief Blair, he has closely guarded the city's policing budget from council's cost-cutting efforts.

3. Niagara Police Chief Jeffrey McGuire

Like Chief Greenwood, Jeffrey McGuire spent the brunt of his policing career in Toronto before jumping ship to run a smaller municipal force. The chief of Niagara Regional Police Service for two years, he was brought in to clean up a force rocked by allegations of steroid use and drug smuggling. By most estimates, he's succeeded, forging strong community relationships in the process.

4. Deputy Chief Peter Sloly

As far back as 2009, at the tender age of 43, Peter Sloly was already being touted as Toronto's next chief. He soared through the ranks in record time, becoming one of Bill Blair's four deputy chiefs after just 21 years on the job. During his time in that position Mr. Sloly has become one of the force's chief advocates for using social media and worked as the front-man for a reorganization of the Toronto Police Service's controversial "carding" system, a process of recording interactions with residents that's been compared to New York's discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices. He has nearly 11,000 tweets to his credit.

5. Deputy Chief Mark Saunders

Described by colleagues as a "cop's cop," Mark Saunders joined the force in 1982 and spent years in tough units such as the Urban Street Gang Unit, Drug Squad and Emergency Task Force, before moving on to leadership roles with the Homicide Squad and 12 Division. As deputy chief responsible for specialized operations, he oversees homicide, intelligence, organized crime and myriad other investigative units. If there's a high-profile investigation in the city, he knows it inside-out – and that includes Brazen 2, the criminal probe of Mayor Rob Ford. He has 144 tweets to his name.

6. Ian McPherson

A dark-horse contender, Ian McPherson was one of Scotland Yard's most senior officers before retiring in 2011 and moving to Toronto to work at KPMG. He was in charge of territorial policing for London's Metropolitan Police Service. A retired Scotland Yard executive called Mr. McPherson one of the biggest names in U.K. policing, who is well-suited to contend for the job should he want it.

7. London Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick

If the board is serious about recruiting outside Canada, Britain's leading counter-terrorism officer will be near the top of their list. Cressida Dick is the daughter of Oxford academics, and widely considered the sharpest policing mind in the country. Despite lofty credentials, she was snubbed to be the new chief constable for Northern Ireland this year and may be ready for a more substantial move, according to a retired Met source.

With reports from Robyn Doolittle and Elizabeth Church