The new head of Canada’s largest municipal police force is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Guelph-Humber’s justice studies program.

Mark Saunders was named Monday as the incoming chief of the Toronto Police Service (TPS). He will graduate in June from Guelph-Humber with a bachelor of applied arts degree in justice studies.

Appointed TPS deputy chief in 2012, Saunders leads the Specialized Operations Command, overseeing more than 1,200 officers.

He has worked for the service for 32 years, including the intelligence division, drug squad, emergency task force, urban street gang unit and the homicide squad, where he was the unit commander. He also served as an undercover officer, and created the investigative cybercrime unit, called C3.

Gary Ellis, head of Guelph-Humber’s Justice Studies program and a former TPS superintendent, said he was pleased to see Saunders appointed as police chief.

“Mark is a respected, dedicated and hard-working police officer who is also a conscientious learner,” said Ellis, who worked for TPS for 31 years.

“Even though he had many years of experience as a police officer, he wanted to learn more and he came to the University of Guelph-Humber to upgrade his skills and develop a stronger understanding of the many facets of our evolving justice system. He was an exceptional student who added to the learning experience of his fellow students at the University.”

Saunders will begin his role as chief of TPS later this month, taking over a force of approximately 5,500 uniformed officers and 2,500 civilian members.

Guelph-Humber vice-provost John Walsh said Saunders’ appointment “not only demonstrates the importance of continually building on skills and learning but also provides an indication that the justice studies program curriculum and training model meets the needs of a changing justice environment.

“We are delighted that one of our students is being appointed as head of TPS, and we wish him the very best in this challenging role.”