A total of 1,175 city high school students have graduated from the Service’s Youth In Policing Initiative (YIPI) summer and after-school programs. Among them is Thushanth Selvakumar, who was in the inaugural 2006 summer class.
He has made history by becoming the first YIPI graduate to be hired as a police officer by the Service.
“This is a dream come true,” said the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Criminology & Justice graduate who was assigned to 41 Division as a YIPI. “I have been trying so hard to get to where I am today. I am back to where I started as a student eight years ago.”
New recruits undergo two weeks of orientation at the police college and 12 weeks of training at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer before returning to the Toronto Police College for a further six weeks of preparation.
Soon after becoming Chief in 2005, Bill Blair suggested that the organization employ 20 young people. There were, however, no funds. With its financial resources stretched to the limit, the Chief turned to then-incoming Deputy Chief Keith Forde for suggestions as to where funding could be accessed for such a project.
Forde and Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee approached Mary Anne Chambers, the then Minister of Children and Youth Services, who was at the time formulating a government strategy to address youth needs.
Chambers said her eyes were filled with tears of joy when she learned the Service was hiring its first YIPI graduate.
“I am absolutely thrilled,” she said. “This young man is a great role model for all YIPI participants, past, present and future and his choice of criminology and justice for his post-secondary studies tells me he has a promising career ahead of him. I believe it is important for youth and the police to have the opportunity to learn from and about each other. The result is very likely to be increased understanding and mutual respect. I am very appreciative of the commitment that the Toronto Police Service has made to the program and the participants over the years.”
The YIPI program emerged as a summer employment opportunity for young people from some of the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods to gain valuable work experience and feel positive and confident about their experiences which they take back to their communities.
“The program exposed me to opportunities and it showed me a different side of policing I didn’t know existed,” said Selvakumar. “I thought police just arrested bad guys, but I soon learned policing is more than that. As a YIPI, I got the opportunity to visit most of the units and that was what really sold on me on Toronto Police.”
Becoming a police officer was Selvakumar’s lifelong goal.
“Living in violent neighbourhoods motivated me to want to make a difference,” he said, noting police had even arrested a member of his family who ran afoul of the law.
Living in violent neighbourhoods motivated me to want to make a difference
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly said Selvakumar should be celebrated for making the move to join the Service.
“We recognized that these young people were not at-risk when they came to us,” he said. “They were high-potential and they dispelled notions from naysayers who said the program wouldn’t work, the kids wouldn’t apply, their parents wouldn’t support them and that our officers would not accept or respect them.
“Here we have a young man from the very first cohort who went on to get a post-secondary education and has kept on the safe and narrow road despite the challenges that have existed in his family and in his community. I am sure there was pressure on him not to join the police from his peer group. He will graduate later this year and I can’t think of a better validation of the vision of Keith Forde’s, the leadership of the Chief, the support of Mary Anne Chambers and the staff members like Danielle Dowdy and Melva Radway who have, in many ways, emotionally adopted these kids. It’s going to be a very special day for Mr. Selvakumar, the YIPI program and Toronto Police and really, I think, one of the best stories that I have heard of in a long time for the City of Toronto. The city should celebrate this as what an institution can do for young people in the community and for communities themselves.”
A Central Ontario Crime Prevention Association member since March 2013, Selvakumar did shift work with several security companies while going to school full-time.
“That was quite challenging, but it has prepared me for my new role as a police officer as I have already being exposed to shift work,” he said.
Born in Montreal and raised in Scarborough, Selvakumar graduated from Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute. The volunteer mentor with Big Brother Big Sisters of Ajax-Pickering was an anti-piracy officer with Andrews International prior to joining Toronto Police.
A total of 1,169 students applied for this year’s summer program. Just 420 were invited for interviews and 153 will be selected in the second week of May for the ninth edition of the program that starts in July.
The students will be paid to work alongside Service members in administrative and support roles.