By working alongside community partners, including United Way, Toronto Police has made a real difference in people’s lives, said the agency’s vice president of community impact Debra Shime.
In her keynote address at the annual Police Week launch on May 9 at 22 Division, Shime said she's seen first-hand the impact police have made by working hand-in-hand with the community.
“You have done a fantastic job of getting out and talking to the community, not just on official calls, but to meet with residents and make connections,” she said. “The opportunity to connect face-to-face and to have a conversation is important in building trust, respect and understanding. Time and again, your officers have shown that they are willing to go the extra mile to build those relationships, particularly with people living in marginalized communities.”
Shime offered a few compelling examples of this kind of engagement.
She said that when TAVIS was first deployed in the Jane & Finch neighbourhood, community leaders reached out to officers to welcome and help them understand the community.
“They talked about what each partner was doing in the community, what they hoped to achieve and how they could help to support one another,” she said. “We know that conversation is the first step in helping to create change.”
Shime said that that University Settlement – an agency in downtown Toronto which she’s affiliated with – has an ongoing partnership with 52 Division.
“It began with Cops for Kids basketball program and it grew from six young children to over 70 in just a year and that became a regular and important component of our work in the community,” she added. “Young people are exposed to police and the police to them.
“…We could have stopped there, but the partnership evolved into one where the police became part of the work we did together in the community. They talked to newcomers in English classes about the role that police play in Canadian society, sometimes very different from the roles police plays in the societies they came from. They participated in our annual family fair in the park and they worked with us to manage and prevent instances in our homeless program and they built relationships with those individuals who often come into contact with the police.”
Police Week is celebrated from May 11-17 this year and the theme isBuilding Community Partnerships.
Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee said he hopes the discussions that take place during the week will yield new and creative ideas about how the police and the public can meaningfully collaborate to bring to life the ever important concept that the police are the public and the public are the police.
“For people to have faith and trust in the police service, they must feel listened to, they must feel empowered and they must be treated as a valued partner in maintaining and enhancing community safety,” he said. “It’s critical as well that both the police and the community acknowledge the vital principle that policing today must be comprehensive and multi-dimensional and must include community mobilization and public engagement as core components for building safe and better communities.
“Our Service emphasizes meaningful participation and collaboration with all of Toronto’s communities, including those that are vulnerable and those who may have not historically have had a close relationship with the police.”
Chief Bill Blair said Police Week is a celebration of partnership and community.
“There is perhaps no more appropriate place to do that than at 22 Division,” he said. “As I look around this room, I see so many outstanding examples of partnership, some of which goes back for many years and has been unrelenting and unwavering in its support not only for the efforts of the police service, but on behalf of communities that so many of you represent. It is that partnership that has made this city the safest and most liveable anywhere in the world. That achievement should be a source of pride for every Torontonian.”
Grade Three students from Twentieth Street Junior School sang the national anthem.