As court officer shift supervisor Clarence Foote proudly watched his son graduate as a court officer, he couldn’t help but think how different things were, just over three decades ago, when he joined the Service.
“I just walked in to 590 Jarvis St., got my photo taken, signed some paperwork and I was given a TTC token and told to report for court officer duties at Old City Hall,” he recalled. “A month later, I was sent to the college for a couple of weeks training and that was it. There was no pomp and ceremony like there is today.”
Brandon Foote was among 30 Special Constables sworn in on March 28 at the Toronto Police College.
“This is a proud day for me to see my son follow in my footsteps,” said the family patriarch, a 31-year veteran. “I have had a very rewarding career and I am sure it will be the same for Brandon.”
Prior to joining the Service, Brandon was a goalie in the Ontario Hockey League, the Ontario Junior Hockey league and the Southern Professional Hockey League.
“I have always looked up to my father and I know how much he has enjoyed his job in this role,” the 22-year-old said. “I knew that, if hockey didn’t work out for me, a career with Toronto Police Service was the next-best option. I am so thrilled to be part of the Service.”
Gregory Williams, who has a diploma in Law & Security from Durham College, had a lot of family support at the graduation.
His grandfather, Ron Williams, spent 27 years with the Service before retiring as a detective at 55 Division and his father, Constable Mark Williams of the Marine Unit, has served 29 years with the Service. In addition, his uncle, Scott Williams, was a Service member for eight years before leaving in 1998 to join the Ontario Provincial Police and his older brother, Brad, is a court officer at Old City Hall.
“Policing is our blood as I was born and raised in it,” said Gregory Williams, assigned to Toronto East Court. “My grandfather started the tradition in our family back in 1962 and I am just continuing the custom.”
For Detectives Garry and Christine Long, graduation day ranked right up there with the special moments when they tied the knot 31 years ago and gave birth to their son and daughter, Christopher and Jennifer, who have joined them in the policing fold.
“Our children recognize we are a policing family as they have grown with it,” said Christine, who’s at 42 Division. “This is such a wonderful moment for us as a family.”
A graduate of Durham College’s Police Foundations program, Christopher is assigned to Toronto East Court, while his sister will be at Old City Hall.
“I knew I wanted to become a Toronto Police member since I was in Grade 10,” said Jennifer Long, who is a third-generation Service employee. “This is my passion.”
In addition to their parents, the graduates’ grandparents – Ronald Long and William Kirkwood – were Service members.
Court Services officers are primarily responsible for the safety and security of the public within the city’s busy court locations, as well as the transportation, security and safety of over 400 prisoners attending court daily.
“Many of the people you will come in contact with will feel nervous and are not sure what to expect and what’s going to happen to them,” acting Superintendent Cory Bockus told the graduates. “It’s now your duty to utilize the new skills you have learned to assist these people who find themselves before our courts and in our custody. Many of these people are vulnerable and scared and they may suffer from different forms of illness. When you treat them professionally with dignity and respect, you will see that they will treat you the same way, most of the time.
“We are not the judge and jury that will decide someone’s fate. We must conduct ourselves appropriately at all times. You are now in uniform and on that patch it says ‘Toronto Police Service Court Officer’. You are now in the spotlight every minute of the day. You are no longer invisible.”
Operational Support Service director Kristine Kijewski also addressed the graduates.
“This is a very special day for you,” she said. “This Service prides itself on being a leader in policing. We are committed to embracing a diversity of opinions and experiences and you bring that to the Service.”
A total of 73 per cent of the graduating class has post-secondary education, they speak 15 languages and some of the new recruits have policing and military experience.
“Your experience will move Court Services forward to continue to improve and you will help the Service to continue to move forward and to be a leader,” Kijewski added.
Court Services is the largest unit in the Service, employing nearly 700 of the service’s 2,500 civilians and it comprises several sections, including Prisoner Transportation, Document Services, Training and the Computer-Assisted Scheduling Courts. Court Officers guard prisoners inside and outside the courtroom, serve legal documents, execute warrants, collect DNA samples from convicted offenders, assist during public demonstrations and are involved in all aspects of the Court Services hiring and training process.
“You are also the largest unit of your kind in Canada and the work that we ask of you on a daily basis is tremendously difficult, both physically and mentally,” Deputy Chief Mark Saunders said. “You are going to be involved with some of the most unsavoury type of people our city has to offer on a daily basis. We ask you at times to be in harm’s way, but what we ask you, more importantly, to do is to rely on your training and teaching. If you do that, not only will you keep yourself safe, but you will keep your partner and the city safe.”
The graduates spent seven weeks with instructors, including training section shift supervisor Inis Artinian, at the college preparing for their new role.
“It has been my pleasure to watch the progress of your professional development over that period,” said Court Services manager Susan Walker-Knapper, who administered the oath of office. “It hasn’t been an easy seven weeks. Then again, if it had been that way, I don’t think you would have had the same sense of appreciation and pride you have today.”
Marvick Chan and Sean Ribeiro shared the Highest Academic Achievement Award honour. Their overall mark was 97.8 per cent.
Chan, who served five years with the Canadian Armed Forces and holds a Criminology & Justice degree and a Police Foundations diploma, is assigned to Toronto North Court, while Ribeiro, who spent five years in the security industry and is a Big Brother and Big Sister mentor, is at Old City Hall.
The class valedictorian was Michael Balloutine, who graduated from Humber College’s Police Foundations program.
“Over the past seven weeks, we have learned a great amount of knowledge from some of the most dedicated individuals I have come across,” said Ballountine, who was selected by his peers.
The graduation ceremony was an exceptionally joyous occasion for several other Service members whose children were part of the latest recruiting class.
Sergeant Brian Smit, who has been with the organization for 33 years, celebrated a hat-trick as the last of his three daughters – Erica Smit -- is now part of the police family. Older sisters Amanda Smith and Charissa Bandstra are in Parking Enforcement and Court Services respectively.
“Dad is proud of us, but he certainly didn’t push us to join him,” said Erica Smit, who graduated from Durham College’s law & security diploma program. “It was our decision.”
Superintendent Bill Neadles and his son, Constable William Neadles, who joined the Service three years ago and is stationed at 42 Division, welcomed daughter and sister Nicole Straub to the organization; 55 Division Const. William Boag did the same for his son, Jason, who graduated from Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute and is a hockey coach, and Superintendent Chris White took time off from his duties as the 12 Division unit commander to join his wife – retired Superintendent Ruth White – in accompanying their son, Tyler, who has a geography degree from Lakehead University and will work at Toronto West Court.
“It’s one of the happiest days when your child succeeds,” said Ruth White, who spent 34 years with the Service before retiring two-and-a-half years ago. “We couldn’t be happier.”
The other graduates were Victoria Ciciretto, Bobby Copeland, Claudio De Santis, Sharon Hayat, Amy Huttary, Jordan Kowalski, Roseller Lagrimas, Morgan McDougall, Pedram Moghaddam, Christopher Moyer, Dhondup Norbu, Valerie Parete, Jonathan Peters, Halyna Pryhara, Amer Qureshi, Claudia Richter, Claudia Rodrigue and Sandra Scott.
For more information on how to join the Service, visit tps.on.ca/careers