CAO Gets View Of Frontline Response

Photo of the blog author By Tony Veneziano,
Toronto Police Service
Published: 5:05 p.m. April 1, 2015

“I’M GOING TO TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THIS!” (from a citizen’s interaction with a TPS officer)

A man with arms folded
CAO Tony Veneziano at police headquarters

I recently had the opportunity to go on a “ride-along” with Sergeant Shari MacKay.  It was a great experience. While I got to trade in my suit and tie for body armour, they refused to give me any use-of-force equipment, other than my usual weapon, a calculator... Something about having to be an authorized uniform officer – fine, I get it!

The city must have known I was going out “on patrol” as the shift was relatively quiet that evening... Ok, the fact there was an ice storm that day, downing hydro wires across the city, may have also contributed to the lack of other activity.

We did attend a few calls and I got Sergeant MacKay’s philosophy and thoughts on effective policing and how we can better provide value-added public-safety services. I’m all ears when it comes to improving what we do and how we do it, and Shari had some very interesting ideas.

I got to use the CAD system and communicated with our Communications Services unit, who promptly asked: “What’s a CAO?”  I responded that one of my responsibilities was to ensure they got paid every two weeks, which quickly got their attention. But there was a message there: “Tony, you have to get out and meet more of our members to get a better understanding of what they do and give them a view of what you do.” Noted!

Event #1 – 55 Division – Mental Health Act Apprehension

This event involved several units that responded to a person in crisis.   The scenario had an added component when the person’s mother attended the scene. 

I saw the officers and our paramedic partners place the person into an ambulance as part of the apprehension process.

One of the officers, leading our response to the call, spoke to the mother in a firm and professional way, which worked to calm her.   At this time, a few members of the public were also watching the scene, and you couldn’t help but be impressed with the way our officers handled the situation and managed the scene. I noticed there was a young recruit, as well as other young officers at the scene, and the more senior member gave them a textbook lesson on how to handle and maintain effective control over a difficult situation.

Outcome: individual taken to hospital where he could get some help; teaching moment for the young recruit and the other officers on the scene; and a proud moment for me in terms of the professional, unbiased and empathetic way our officers managed a challenging and sensitive situation.

Event #2 - 32 Division visit:

We were in the vicinity of 32 Division and decided to stop in.  As Sergeant MacKay was parking her vehicle, we noticed a man outside circling a car.  Sergeant MacKay asked him if he needed any help. Freezing rain was coming down. He indicated that his car wouldn’t start and asked if we could give him a boost.  Sgt MacKay located booster cables in the back of her vehicle and proceeded to boost his battery. His car started. A smile quickly came to his face. He kept thanking us and said, “I’m going to tell everyone about this.”

I guess we aren’t roadside assistance but we are a public service and we did have the ability to help, so we did.

Outcome: a happy customer (member of the public) who will tell his family and friends this story; and a positive customer service/we care image for the Service.

The respectful, unbiased and empathetic way these two very different types of interactions were handled is what professional public safety service is all about. It’s what will help us improve and maintain the image of policing and the services we provide.

The reality is that officers handle similar situations every day. It’s therefore important to remember that every interaction, no matter how small or big, no matter how serious or minor, will have an outcome, and will affect members of the public and how they view us as a public-safety service-provider and what they will tell others about us. This, in turn, will affect public trust and influence our ability to build those important relationships with members of the diverse public we serve every day.  Because the reality is we can’t provide effective and value-added public-safety services without the help of our diverse communities, which is the essence of community engagement in policing.

It’s important we don’t lose sight of the good job the vast majority of officers do every day.  It’s these positive, respectful, professional and unbiased interactions, combined with holding those officers accountable who choose to deviate from our core values, that will change how we are viewed by the vast majority of the public.

So, how many of you thought the title of this article “I’m going to tell everyone about this”was going to be about a negative interaction with a member of the public?

To our officers, I felt it important to tell all of you all about this, my experience on a ride-along. Thanks for your professionalism, thanks for your dedication, thanks for caring, and keep up the great work.

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