Semper Paratus (Always Ready) is the motto of the Toronto Police Marine Unit, whose officers are always ready for any situation that might occur on the water. The Auxiliary of the Month for May shares the same sentiment before hitting the water.
The unit is a part of the Specialized Emergency Response for the Toronto Police Service and patrols an area of 460 square miles of open water on Lake Ontario (twice the size of Toronto). It operates year round, 24-hours a day and its members work with law enforcement from different jurisdictions (both U.S. and Canadian).
Auxiliary Constable Erol Cem Kocak made sure that he was more than prepared when he first came to the Marine Unit in April of 2017, straight from his training/probation period from the Community Partnerhips and Engagement Unit.
With his experience as a sailor and a yacht captain, having sailed more than 25,000 nautical miles and crossed the Atlantic ocean in a sailboat, coupled with his engineering background and marine education (search and rescue, sea survival), Auxiliary Constable Kocak was more than qualified for his role in the Marine Unit.
But that was not enough for him. Prior to joining the TPS Marine Unit, Kocak also took the initiative to further enhance his portfolio by obtaining various licences, including the Toronto Harbour Licence and courses in scuba and boating.
"During his short time with the Marine Unit, he has gone above and beyond what has been required of him as an Auxiliary Officer," said his supervisor Auxilary Sgt. Frank Dileo.
"It didn’t take me long to realize that he was going to be a welcome addition to our Marine Unit family," said the Community Services Officer Constable Richard Baker. "As I have gotten to know him over the past few years I certainly realize that his Auxiliary role is a great source of pride to him and is a chance for him to give back to the community. We can always count on him to step up to the plate when needed. He also shows much respect and courtesy toward others."
For his dedication, Auxiliary Constable Erol Cem Kocak was awarded the Auxiliary Officer of the Month for May. He was presented with a framed certificate and a gift by Constable Andrew Rosbrook, Auxiliary Co-ordinator of the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU), which is responsible for approximately 325 Auxiliary members, in the presence of Baker and Dileo.
CPEU Supt. Dave Rydzik said the monthly awards are part of the Service's commitment toward the Auxiliary program.
“These monthly awards are just one of the ways our unit is trying to encourage and motivate our Auxiliary officers," he said.
The uniformed Auxiliary officers volunteer approximately 70,000 hours annually to assist the Service’s community engagement initiatives, crime prevention programs, special events, parades, searches for missing persons and emergency call outs.
Kocak, or Cem (pronounced Gem) as his friends call him, understands that the demands of a specialty unit differ from what is expected from other units within the Auxiliary program. All levels of Marine Unit staff from unit commander to constable, mechanics, crewhands to auxiliaries take part in training from ice rescue to vessel handling, charting, marine law, electronic navigation and much more. The simple reason for this is everyone is called upon to attend in a marine emergency.
Cem’s commitment to the program is certainly reflected in the amount of hours he completes, averaging over 400 hours annually, far exceeding the 150 hour requirement.
Baker said Kocak was able to be a great ambassador for the Service even at her first detail for the Marine Unit Open Doors Toronto event that saw over 3,000 people visit the station at the foot of Rees St.
"I recall that by the end of the first day, Cem was already stepping up and taking on station tours and fielding questions from the visitors, which is no easy feat. It brings me great confidence to know our reputation is in good hands," Baker said.
A true ambassador for the TPS and the Marine Unit, Cem's fervour has not diminished as he continues to connect and educate the public regarding boating safety at the recent Boat Show, another one of the Marine Unit's major community events of the year.
Without doubt Cem's proudest moment as an Auxiliary was when he was accepted into the program. He joined because he had the time and wanted to give back to his community in the best possible way he could.
"I feel like I have over 300 brothers and sisters in my fellow Auxiliaries; and our community members are so helpful and grateful for the time we spend on our details. It is an experience of a lifetime."
Cem is always professional, polite and shows great integrity for his position as an Auxiliary officer. "When I was told I was the Officer of the Month for May, I was so surprised at being elected. It is a great honour to be considered, but I always think that it is all about teamwork, with each member of the team contributing with his or her best. I happen to be the lucky one."
If you are looking for a fulfilling and rewarding volunteer career, you may consider becoming an Auxiliary officer by visiting tps.on.ca/careers.