There was no way that Chief Mark Saunders was going to miss the Ojos for the Oscars on February 28.
Retired Constable Ojo Tewogbade, with the support of 13 Division, the British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church and community members, launched the Black History Month celebration – commonly known as the Ojos because it’s held on the same Sunday that the Academy Awards are held – that recognizes professional and community service achievements.
“I am glad I am here because the people we are honouring tonight are real,” said Saunders. “They are not actors.”
This was the event’s 17th anniversary.
“The fact that you have dedicated your lives to make the world a better place and have a position of influence to make communities better is, indeed, noteworthy,” Saunders told the organizers. “It takes a special person to do that.”
Superintendent Scott Baptist, 13 Division unit commander, said the Black History Month celebration is one of the proudest traditions of Toronto policing.
“This is a celebration of partnership and friendship and the incredible power and strength of diversity,” he said. “The longtime partnership of Reverend Chester Searles and Maurice Hicks of the BME Church, along with Constable Ojo, is a tribute to the vision of true community/police partnership. It’s the sort of partnership where the needs of others are put above self, and where individuals step up to make a difference in their community for the benefit of all.”
Awards were presented to Staff Sergeant Courtney Chambers, Constables John Porter, Michael Budd and Ian Weir, who is now with Halton Police Service, for the role they played in 13 Division during the 2014 World Cup soccer finals in Brazil.
“For over a month, and virtually on a daily basis, they – along with our civilian and Auxiliary staff – stepped up to the challenge of dealing with emotional crowds,” said Baptist.
Constable Marc Madramootoo, who joined the Service 14 years ago as a court officer before transitioning to a uniformed officer a year later, was honoured for his vast community service. He’s a volunteer counsellor for the George Brown men’s basketball team, a volunteer with Brock University men’s basketball program and a Toronto Police Service Employment Unit ambassador.
Ricardo Araujo, a program assistant with the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) program, was also recognized at the event for his work with youth.