When Joanne Dileo co-founded the Police Community Partnership 27 years ago that was the forerunner to the Community Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), things were quite different.
Relations between the police and the community in 13 Division have improved significantly in the last three decades.
“People in the community were hesitant to approach the police,” she recalls. “The trust factor was not there and they did not engage officers as we now see today. The community and the police work together on various community initiatives and they join forces to make their neighbourhoods better. That did not necessarily happen when I became a PCP member.”
A tireless volunteer and bridge-builder, Dileo was recognized with a Ontario Volunteer Service Award on June 19 at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre in downtown Toronto.
13 Division nominated her for the prestigious honour.
“Joanne is an incredible volunteer who has done and continues to so many wonderful things in our division,” said unit commander Superintendent Scott Baptist who attended the awards ceremony. “She also knows everyone and she goes out of her way to make people feel at home. We just recently brought seven new officers to the division and Joanne was there to greet them and make them feel comfortable. She comes out to everything we do and is a real champion for what the police is trying to do in the community, which is build bridges. She’s fully deserving of this accolade as she goes above and beyond.”
Encouraged by former Toronto Police Service Board member Judi Cohen and former city councillor Betty Disero, Dileo started volunteering with 13 Division in 1987. It also helped that then Chief Bill McComarck extended a personal invitation to her to become part of the police family.
Over the years, Dileo organized community barbecues and clean-up campaigns and acted as a sounding board for officers.
“This lady truly exemplifies what volunteerism is,” Baptist said.
A total of six 12 Division CPLC members were also honoured at the ceremony. They were Claire Andrews and Rose Helmy, who were recognized for 15 years of volunteer service, and Larry Cole and Shelley Middlebrook who have been volunteering with the Division for five years.
In addition, Cameron Richards and Ricardo Araujo were presented with youth awards for their volunteer service.
“The award means a lot to me,” said Araujo, who assists with the Division’s youth bike program that involves the Service, the Breakfast Club and Canadian Tire Jump Start.
Araujo spends two hours a week riding outdoors with the young people and ensuring they adhere to road safety.
The program concludes with the Tour de Black Creek Race in September.
A 2010 Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) graduate, Araujo has been a YIPI assistant for the last year.
“It’s good to recognize what our volunteers are doing and drop a surprise their way,” said 12 Division CPLC co-chair Barbara Spyropoulos.
Constable James Lambe agreed.
“I work with these people all the time,” he said. “They don’t do it for the recognition.”