As he prepares for retirement in August after 35 years on the job, Const. Ojo Tewogbade vividly remembers his first experience with Toronto Police after migrating from Nigeria and the positive impact two cops made on him.
On his second day in Canada in 1972, he took off for a walk from his Jane St. residence and was lost.
The officers found him wandering without winter clothes near Queen & Yonge Sts. and drove him back home. They later returned and provided him with his first winter coat purchased with their own money.
“Since that time, my perspective on life has changed,” Tewogbade told the audience at the St. James British Methodist Episcopal (BME) Church/Toronto Police13 Division Black History Month (BHM) celebration last Sunday night. “There are facts and there are perceptions and on that day, I made the decision that I would be a Toronto Police officer.”
He joined the Service in 1979 and has been assigned to 13 Division his entire policing career.
The Black History Month celebration that Tewogbade launched with the support of 13 Division, the BME church and community members recognizes professional and community service achievements.
This year’s award recipients included Susanna Noel, of the Property & Evidence Management Unit (PEMU).
The mother of four was rewarded for volunteering with sickle cell programs in 13 Division.
“I have a son with sickle cell trait, so this is a disease I am familiar with,” said Noel, who spent 18 years with Parking Enforcement before moving to the PEMU just over a year ago. “…I feel blessed to be a recipient of this award.”
Awards were also presented to Staff Superintendent Richard Stubbings of Corporate Risk Management, Sie-Wing Khow of Legal Services, 52 Division Constable Adam Josephs, 13 Division Superintendent Scott Baptist, Inspector Glenn Holt, Staff Sergeant Michael Matic, Sergeants Jason Holmes, Jimmy Browne, Jason Albanese, Constables Vito Coculuzzi and youth outreach program member Constable Gordon Olarewaju, Det. Corinne Clark of Professional Standards and Sgt. Karen Hunte of 42 Division.
Toronto Police Military Veterans Association president Jack Reid was among three war veterans honoured.
Joining the Service in 1941 as a clerk cadet, Reid served as a radar operator aboard the HMCS Longueil during the Second World War. Returning to Toronto Police four years later, he was promoted to detective in 1955 and inspector a decade later. He retired as a staff superintendent in 1984.
He collected the awards for Denis Pritchard and Colin Campbell who were unable to attend the event.
Superintendent Scott Baptist, the new 13 Division unit commander, said the Black History Month celebration is one of the proudest traditions of Toronto policing.
“Tonight is indeed a celebration of partnership, friendship and the incredible power and strength of diversity,” he said. “…This is truly a tribute to the vision of true police-community partnership where the needs of others are put above self, where individuals step up to make a difference in the community for the benefit of all. We are truly blessed to have such incredible partners…Our city is in so many respects the envy of the world. We are a welcoming home to people from every corner of the globe where cultural uniqueness is encouraged, supported and viewed as the greatest strengths of our community.”
Baptist was assigned to 13 Division after serving for five years as second in command at 23 Division in Rexdale.
“In that role, I had the very unique opportunity to appreciate first-hand the importance of Sir Robert Peel’s principles of policing, most notably the premise that the police are the public and the public are the police. Rexdale is home to thousands of Somalis, yet Toronto Police had just one Somali police officer. In 23 Division, we worked very closely with the Somali community to build positive relationships and to enhance mutual understanding so that young Somali Canadians might consider policing as a career choice.”
Last November, the Service received nearly 50 applications after hosting a recruitment drive for candidates with Somali roots.
“Through such outreach efforts, we are taking assertive action to ensure that we not only embrace the diversity of our city, but that we reflect it internally throughout our entire organization,” added Baptist. “With time and the ongoing support of community partners like the British Methodist Episcopal Church, I know we will succeed.”
Ontario’s Fairness Commissioner Jean Augustine was the keynote speaker at the event that also paid tribute to Guelph Police Service Constable Jennifer Kovacs who was killed in the line of duty last March.