The nominees for Police Officer of the Year were announced at a ceremony at police headquarters.
The Police Officer of the Month Awards were presented by Chief Bill Blair, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee and Chair of the Police Officer of the Year Awards Christopher Worth.
The awards were initiated in 1967 by the Toronto Board of Trade young professionals. The purpose of the awards is to recognize officers who have made significant contributions to making Toronto one of the safest cities in the world.
The awards are chosen bases on bravery, humanitarianism, superior Investigative work and outstanding police skills.
The Police Officer of the Year will be announced at a reception at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, First Canadian Place, on June 4.
Nominations were also made for the Business Excellence Awards (BEA), which recognize members of the Toronto Police Service who have made significant contributions based on innovation, community service, technical achievement as well as customer service and reliability.
January: Sergeant Bernard Hawco and Constables Richard Davies and Tanya Bronsema
On January 16, 2013 Sergeant Bernard Hawco along with Constables Tanya Bronsema and Richard Davies responded to a gun call at a high school. Hawco went to speak to the school principal to determine the validity of the call and other officers set up a perimeter around the school.
Bronsema and Davies proceeded to the classroom where the suspect was reported to be, only to find the classroom empty. With the help of the principal and his administrative staff, a second classroom was quickly identified as a possible location for the suspect. Davies investigated the suspect and he was taken into custody. When the suspect was searched no weapon was located and he denied having possession of a weapon or any knowledge of anyone having a gun in the school.
Davies took the suspect to the office for further questioning while Sergeant Hawco interviewed the youth’s teacher. Once the teacher heard the story behind the investigation he explained that just before police arrived, another student came and knocked at the classroom door. This student motioned to the suspect to come out, at which point the suspect got up and left the classroom with his backpack. Realizing that when the suspect was investigated he did not have a backpack with him, Hawco quickly determined there was a possibility that the suspect handed the backpack over to the other student who attended at the door. As a result, the other student was located and found to be in possession of the backpack and he too was taken into custody. When the backpack was searched, no weapon was located. Hawco communicated this information to officers who were securing the school as per the lockdown protocol.
At this time, Bronsema, who was still searching the hallways, heard an outside door open. She realized that no one should be leaving the school while it was in lockdown, rushed downstairs and saw a girl walking away from the school carrying a backpack. Bronsema told her to stop and approached her to investigate. The student became confrontational with the officer. The backpack was seized and a loaded revolver was found inside. The student was subsequently arrested.
The investigation continued inside the school. A surveillance video was viewed resulting in other students being identified, located and arrested who had also been in possession of the handgun.
As a result of the actions of these officers a very dangerous situation in one of our schools, that placed many students and staff at risk, was averted.
February: Constables Trevor Joseph and Bartosz Musial
On February 10, 2013, a man called 9-1-1 and advised that he was going to kill himself. As a woman screamed in the background he abruptly hung up. He called again to say he and his wife were “cut up”.
Constables Trevor Joseph and Bartosz Musial responded to the call and gained entry to the apartment using a key from the apartment security guard.
When they opened the door, the officers saw a woman with stab wounds to her face and neck bleeding profusely. They also saw two young children cowering behind the woman’s bloodied body. Joseph and Musial immediately grabbed the children and took them out of the apartment to a place of safety.
The officers re-entered the apartment and at this time were confronted by a man holding a large serrated knife. With their firearms drawn, the officers demanded the suspect drop the knife but he instead retreated further inside the apartment and shut the door.
The officers called for the Emergency Task Force to attend the scene. Seconds later, the suspect opened the door and again confronted the officers still armed with the knife. The suspect lowered himself to toward the floor as the officers made demands in a calm manner for him to drop the weapon. But abruptly, the suspect stood up in a defiant manner and moved towards the officers.
Constable Musial fired his gun once, striking the suspect. The suspect fell to the ground still holding the knife. As the suspect was momentarily incapacitated, the officers were able to safely remove the knife from his hand although he was still struggling. With the assistance of a third officer the suspect was placed under arrest.
Both officers assisted Emergency Services personnel in applying first aid to the suspect and he was transported to hospital. The woman suffered several stab wounds and was also transported to hospital where she recovered.
Had it not been for the brave actions of these officers, the outcome for the victim may have been fatal.
All of these officers, without hesitation put their own lives at risk in an attempt to rescue the victims
March: Sergeant Jamie Clark and Constables Tyler Brett, Brad Mills, Trevor Grieve, Sean Heffernan and Michael Kelly
On Friday March 29th, 2013 a vehicle crashed through a Lake Shore Boulevard guard rail and plunged into the Don River Basin.
Once on scene, Sergeant Jamie Clark took immediate control of what was a chaotic and an emotionally charged situation. He ensured dangers were being assessed by officers before they entered the 15 feet of frigid water with next-to-no visibility. They entered with ropes and float rings to assist in the rescue.
Constable Michael Kelly, a former Marine Unit member, arrived on scene and assumed a leadership role, advising the other officers of the dangers, and recognizing the importance of utilizing the emergency equipment at hand knowing that the frigid water would have an immediate effect on their bodies.
Kelly's experience prevented what could have resulted in a rescue of the rescuers.
Without hesitation, officers immediately entered the frigid water and made their way approximately 20 feet to the vehicle using emergency flotation devices.
Constables Kelly, Sean Heffernan, Brad Mills and Brett Tyler located the submerged vehicle and were able to stand on its side. Several attempts were made by these officers to dive under the water in an effort to locate an entry point and free the victims.
After numerous attempts the officers were unable to open a door due to the pressure from the water.
Kelly utilized his baton to smash out the rear window of the vehicle. At this time, water immediately rushed into the vehicle, adding additional danger to the officers.
Several more dives were attempted to locate the victims. At this time, members of the Marine Unit arrived on scene. Properly equipped, they were able to assist in the rescue of the victims.
The victims were taken to shore to awaiting Emergency Medical Services members, and transported St Mikes Hospital via an emergency run.
As the victims had become separated during the rescue and taken for treatment Grieve liaised with the other emergency services and hospital to ensure everyone was accounted for and the parents were aware of where their children were being treated.
All of these officers, without hesitation put their own lives at risk in an attempt to rescue the victims. The dangers these officers faced; near freezing water, hypothermia, contamination, hazardous debris did not deter them from entering the water in an attempt to save lives. This incident was handled in a controlled/safe manner and with professionalism.
April: Constable Jeffrey Johnston
On April 21, 2013, two men, one armed with a semi-automatic firearm, robbed a bank along St. Clair Ave. The armed suspect shot a bank teller in the leg and another patron was shot in the stomach as they confronted the men.
Police later located the getaway car in the north end of the city. After a canvas of the area, it was revealed that a third man had visited the car, wiping down the interior and exterior with an unknown solvent in an attempt to clear away any evidence. The vehicle was towed to Forensic Identification Services where Constable Jeffrey Johnston examined the vehicle.
Through dogged determination, Constable Johnston was able to find a very small area on the left rear passenger window that the suspect had missed cleaning. Constable Johnston was able to locate and lift a lone fingerprint and submitted it to AFIS, the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System, for analysis. As a result a suspect was positively identified.
A warrant was put out over the Canadian Police Information Centre and less than 24 hours after the robbery officers from the Peel Regional Police Service arrested the suspect on an unrelated charge.
A search warrant was executed at the suspect’s home where officers found packed luggage, a plane ticket, and travel documents to leave the country the following day. Investigation revealed that the cash used to purchase the plane ticket was linked back to the bank robbery.
Had it not been for the meticulous examination of the vehicle by Constable Johnston crucial evidence would not have been recovered and a criminal would have escaped.
May: Detective William McGarry
After fellow Child Exploitation investigators from the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre (NCECC) shared a series of child abuse in 2012, Detective William McGarry began what would become a lengthy investigation into the identity of the child.
McGarry soon found over 300 additional images of the same child online. The photos were posted anonymously but McGarry managed to enhance an image of a fingerprint, which could prove to be crucial in identifying the suspect in the images.
After viewing, and digitally enhancing, over 400 images of the child, he was able to determine that the assaults were occurring in Edmonton, Alberta. Detective McGarry contacted the Edmonton Police Service and provided them with the identity of the child and a possible suspect. Police and Child and Family Services staff removed the child from the home to a place of safety. Police interviewed the child’s father who implicated his brother as the offender; however there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges.
McGarry worked with NCECC and conducted further research. Images of the men with the child were located and facial and body comparisons were conducted. These comparisons positively identified the suspect.
The Edmonton Police re-interviewed the father, who confessed. A search warrant was executed resulting in the seizure of computer equipment and cameras. Both men were arrested and charged with numerous sexual offences.
If it were not for the persistence, determination and professionalism of Detective McGarry, this abuse of a child would have continued.
June: Constable Sheraz Arshad
On the afternoon of June 4, 2012, Constable Sheraz Arshad was the first police officer to respond to a hazardous chemical spill in the basement of a home renovation project in downtown Toronto. Five people were still inside the home and were reported to be having trouble breathing and were experiencing nausea. The fire service had also been called, but an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) supervisor was the only other person on the scene when Arshad arrived. The EMS supervisor had already determined that the chemical hazard was life threatening.
Firefighters were on their way, but Constable Arshad had calculated that they would not arrive for another five minutes. He was trained in the dangers of toxic fumes and understood the personal risk he would be taking by entering the basement without proper protective gear, however, time was running out for the occupants.
Arshad entered the toxic basement equipped only with an N20 bio-hazard mask. He held his breath and began removing the trapped occupants one by one. One man was unconscious and had to be physically carried out by the police officer. All five victims were rushed to a local hospital, treated and released.
Arshad also had to be treated at the scene by paramedics for inhaling toxic materials and over-exerting himself carrying the unconscious man to safety. His actions saved five lives that day.
July: Sergeant Stephen Hicks and Constables Mark Furzecott, Jay Shin and Tracy Windle
It was his day off on July 19, 2013, when Constable Mark Furzecott received information that a wanted man was seen at a barber shop in 31 Division. Furzecott contacted Constable Jay Shin, who went to the storefront with Sergeant Stephen Hicks to make the arrest.
The suspect was confronted, but fled from the officers who gave chase through the store as other patrons tried to impede the officers. While attempting to arrest the suspect, Shin fell through a plate glass window. The suspect continued to run but both officers pursued on foot. Hicks called for back-up assistance.
The suspect made gestures to his waistband, leaving officers to believer that he may have a gun.
Shin cut off the suspect during the pursuit allowing Hicks to apprehend the suspect which enabled both officers to place the suspect under arrest.
Hicks noticed a four-inch gash on his partner’s arm, exposing a severed artery that was bleeding profusely. Shin began to lose consciousness and a call to rush Emergency Services personnel was placed by Hicks. The sergeant ripped his police shirt and applied a makeshift tourniquet to Shin’s arm keeping it elevated to prevent blood loss.
Constable Tracy Windle arrived on scene and it was decided, because ambulance had not yet arrived, to place Shin in the back seat of her scout car along with Hicks who continued to administer first aid as she drove to the hospital.
The outstanding teamwork of all officers led to the arrest of a dangerous offender while ensuring a fellow officer went home safe at the end of the day.
August: Constable Christopher Morgan
During the early morning hours of August 27, 2012 Constable Christopher Morgan was off-duty, driving his personal vehicle in the company of a friend, when they saw a man acting in a suspicious manner wearing a winter jacket and winter gloves. As it was a hot summer night, the officer found this unusual and decided to investigate further.
Morgan saw the suspect approach and confront three young women who were at a bus stop. While brandishing a knife, the suspect demanded that the women turn over their cell phones. Two of the women fled but the third complied. As Morgan drove up to the scene one of the victims jumped in front of his car and asked for his help. She told him that they had been robbed and that the suspect was armed with a knife. Morgan cautiously approached the suspect and identified himself as a police officer. He engaged the suspect in conversation in an attempt to de-escalate the dangerous situation. The suspect cautioned the officer not to approach.
As Morgan directed his friend in the car to call 9-1-1, the suspect turned and fled on foot. Morgan returned to his car and followed the suspect while keeping the call-taker informed of his location. He also provided a description of the suspect. Officers responded and arrested the suspect without incident.
A search of the suspect’s backpack resulted in the seizure of two large knives and a bottle containing a noxious mixture of peppers and vinegar.
September: Constable Guy Kama
In January 2011, while investigating an occurrence involving a government-issued cheque, Constable Guy Kama was approached by an investigations manager with Public Works who asked him to assist with an unrelated investigation. The manager reported that his department had discovered several government-issued cheques had been fraudulently altered and were being cashed at various financial institutions in the Greater Toronto Area. This fraud scheme was expanding and involved a group targeting major banks, making sure never to visit the same branch twice.
Kama was provided a monthly spreadsheet identifying all suspect cheques. He requested surveillance photos from the banks, as well as, the original cheques for fingerprinting purposes. As most government cheques are mailed out, Kama also sought the assistance of Canada Post to try and identify the location where the cheques were being stolen.
Kama analyzed the information he received and was able to identify suspects, zeroing in on a main suspect who proved elusive to find. Kama began attending community events to become acquainted with friends of this suspect and eventually received information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts. Kama conducted surveillance and made the arrest.
Further investigation resulted in three additional suspects being arrested and charged. One of the suspects had fled the country.
Public Works confirmed a decline in fraudulent government cheques as a direct result of these arrests.
October: Constables Christopher Cheung and Ian Lam
On October 21, 2012 Constables Christopher Cheung and Ian Lam responded to a call for “unknown trouble”. They arrived to find people running from the house . After getting in the home, they quickly determined that they had interrupted a robbery in-progress at an illegal gaming house. In addition to observing several patrons bound with zip ties, there was also a discarded handgun on the floor.
Seeing the officers, two of the robbery suspects bolted for a rear door. Cheung was able to arrest one of the suspects at gunpoint at the rear of the home. The second suspect managed to escape. Meanwhile, Lam discovered a struggle taking place between one of the victims and a third suspect near the front door area. Lam ordered the two to separate and arrested the suspect at gunpoint.
While waiting for back up, the officers secured a discarded firearm and protected the crime scene. With the arrival of back-up, Cheung continued to search the house and located another suspect hiding on the second floor.
As a result of the initial response by Cheung and Lam, three armed and violent suspects were apprehended without incident and their getaway vehicle was discovered and contained. A search warrant was executed on the vehicle which resulted in the recovery of a cell phone leading to the arrest of a fourth suspect.
November: Detective Sergeant Debbie Harris and Constable Mark Kennedy
In January 2011 a series of arsons occurred. One of the buildings set ablaze, the former Empress Hotel, a designated historic building at Yonge and Gould Sts., was classified as a six-alarm fire response and damage was estimated to be in excess of $3 million. The building was later demolished. The lead police investigator was then-Detective Debbie Harris.
From January 2011 to July 2012 several other fires occurred. Constable Mark Kennedy took an interest in arson investigation and assisted Harris. He identified a viable suspect who was wanted on a warrant for failing to comply with the terms of a probation order. The warrant was executed and the suspect was placed under arrest. Harris and Kennedy interviewed the suspect.
Harris established a rapport with the suspect, which assisted her in gaining his cooperation and led to the suspect readily admitting to setting fires in hotels to kill residents who had confronted him regarding his activities. He indicated that he wanted to hurt the people and that he started fires because he “got a kick” out of it. He admitted to a lifelong involvement with intentionally setting fires and provided details regarding a number of other arson occurrences for which he was responsible. He also admitted that in some instances he was hired to set the fires.
Following the suspect’s confession, Harris and Kennedy made concerted efforts to verify the details. In October 2012 the suspect pled guilty to a total of eight criminal charges including arson and attempted murder.
As well, the success of the investigation was in large part made possible by Harris and Kennedy’s teamwork and collaboration with Toronto Fire Services and the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal.