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One of Toronto’s new police cars (Toronto Police Services)
One of Toronto’s new police cars (Toronto Police Services)

Globe editorial

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has bad taste in car colours Add to ...

Public officials who make policy decisions are expected to act thoughtfully, to seek consultation and to deliberate based on the known facts.

Which is not what Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders did when he woke up one morning and thought it would be cool to have badass police cruisers straight out of Robocop.

Mr. Saunders has now reversed his unilateral decision to go with more-than-slightly ominous grey and black cars, and has agreed with City Council to continue with the existing colour scheme in which bright white is the dominant colour.

He has also admitted that his original decision wasn’t a carefully made one. “There was just a moment when I did it, there was no deep thought in it,” he told the CBC.

That’s quite an admission. Chief Saunders said the entire thought process was, “The fleet is old and we’re in the process of changing and someone said, ‘Do you want it to be the same or do you want it to look different,’ and I said, ‘Let’s make it look different.’”

Most people put more thought into choosing a new paint colour for the downstairs bathroom. Mr. Saunders failed to take into account a number of important issues that have since been brought to his attention by city councillors.

First and foremost is the fact that the new, dark grey Ford Interceptors have a look that is somewhere between stealth and menace. It’s not what a Canadian police department should be going for. Police officers embody the law, and, as much as possible, their appearance must suggest that our law is fair, friendly and on the side of citizens. Be visible and approachable. That’s good for both citizens and police.

The dark new cars also contrast unfavourably with the easy-to-see white cars that have been patrolling Toronto for 30 years, and the yellow cruisers that were on the road in earlier decades. The new cars don’t fit with “Toronto’s desire for a publicly engaged, community-focused police service,” as city councillors put it in a recent motion.

It is a police chief’s job to talk to, and listen to, the citizens of the city and their representatives. Cop cruisers are a ubiquitous symbol of how a society sees itself, and the police department can’t define that brand on its own.

Mr. Saunders’ shoot first, get asked questions later approach leaves the impression that he didn’t think about the needs of the citizens he serves. And that is the worst look of all.

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