Constable Alison Burns will always remember her ninth anniversary with the Service.
On August 22, she and her partner – Constable Gurminder Minhas – rescued an emotionally disturbed person who was threatening to jump off a Scarborough railway overpass onto the tracks.
“We are about 200 yards away, so we got to the scene very quickly,” said Minhas, who joined the Service six years ago. “There was a man sitting on the railing with his feet hanging on the light stanchion. He just looked at us, looked back and then looked down. At that point, we knew we had to get him off the railing before something bad happened.”
Burns attempted to engage the man in conversation as the officers tried to figure out their next move. “I told him we there to help and I politely asked him if he could come off the rail and talk to us,” recalled Burns.
“There was a blank expression on his face and then he started crying. He was a big guy, about six feet tall and weighing almost 230 pounds and I thought that,if I tried to pull him back, he would take me over the railing with him.”
It was at that point that Minhas jumped into action by putting his arms under the man’s armpits and wrapping them firmly around his chest. “I lifted his arms up so only his butt was on the railing and I pulled him back,” said Minhas, a School Resource Officer for two years at nearby Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute. “We both fell on the sidewalk and he started crying again.”
Burns said when they asked the man how they could help him, his terse response was, ‘just shoot me in the head.’
“We assured him we were there to help and he would get professional help,” she said.
An ambulance took the man to a nearby hospital.
Iona Barton, who lives in the neighbourhood, was on her way home from work when she saw the man perched dangerously on the bridge.
“I thought that something was wrong and I made a U-turn and proceeded to approach him,” she said. “When I asked him if I could help, he just glared at me. I didn’t want to annoy him to the point where he might jump over, so I drove off a short distance where I could see him in my review mirror and called 9-1-1.”
Barton praised the officers for the efficient manner in which they handled the situation.
“I suffer from depression, so I know that sense of hopelessness that that man was obviously experiencing,” she said. “The officers were really nice and patient and they acted very professionally in a challenging situation.”
The officers were really nice and patient and they acted very professionally in a challenging situation
On August 25, 42 Division Community Response Unit Staff Sergeant David Rydzik presented a ‘positive ticket’ and a $25 Starbucks gift card to Barton as a thank-you for bringing the situation to police. A ‘positive ticket’ is a citation presented by police to residents for performing good deeds.
“It’s citizens like this that help our community and make a difference,” he said. “We really appreciate her quick thinking by calling 9-1-1 and turning around and keeping an eye on the man in case he decided to leave the area.”
Rydzik also complimented Minhas and Burns on their professionalism.
“They reacted quickly and obviously defused the situation,” he said. “We are all proud of what they did.”
Burns and Minhas, the Malvern neighbourhood officer, said this was the first time in their law enforcement careers that they have rescued an emotionally disturbed person.
“I have been in situations where, unfortunately, the person committed a fatal act by the time I arrived on the scene,” Burns noted. “This was the first time that I have turned up on the scene and played a part in saving someone’s life.”