GG Honours Police Leaders

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:05 a.m. September 25, 2014

A senior Service member was recently recognized with a prestigious national police honour.

A man in TPS uniform shakes hands with another man as a man in RCMP uniform stands in the background
Superintendent Selwyn Fernandes with Governor General David Johnston at the September 8 ceremony at Rideau Hall

Superintendent Selwyn “Sam” Fernandes was the only Toronto Police Service member to be bestowed with the Order of Merit of the Police Forces at an investiture ceremony on September 8 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

A total of 77 police officers from across Canada were honoured that day.

“To be in the presence of so many distinguished police officers was such a great honour for me,” said Fernandes, who was born in Tanzania to Goan immigrants. “I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.”

Deputy Chief Peter Sloly nominated Fernandes for the award.

“Selwyn’s commitment to fostering relationships with diverse communities began in the 1970s and has continued as a common thread throughout his career,” Sloly said. “His greatest impact has been on the South Asian community in Toronto, but he has reached out continually to all diverse communities, seeking to bring them in as partners in maintaining community safety and security for the betterment of all.

“In this respect, he’s not only a leader, but a pioneer of fostering relations between the community and the police. For his exceptional long-term commitment to police-community relations, he’s a worthy candidate for the order.”

Fernandes is in his 43rd year with the Service, after joining in 1971 as a 23-year-old university graduate.

Educated in Calcutta and Scotland, he was an aeronautical engineer prior to entering policing.

“I like to be around people and it was my sisters who thought that policing would be perfect for me,” he said. “They were right because I have enjoyed every moment on this job and the interactions I have had with so many communities across this city.”

Starting his law enforcement career at 56 Division, which became 55 Division in 1973 after amalgamation, Fernandes was promoted to Sergeant in 1979, Staff Sergeant six years later and Inspector in 1989.

He was just the second visible minority senior officer in Canada at the time, after Paul Fernandes – no relation – who was promoted to Inspector in 1984. A former Scotland Yard fingerprint expert who also worked with the British Police in Tanzania before coming to Toronto, Paul Fernandes died 25 years ago at age 58.

“That promotion has been one of the highlights of my career,” recalled Fernandes, who is the unit commander at 32 Division. “It was only after seeing my family’s expressions of joy and happiness did I realize how big an accomplishment it was.”

After establishing and shaping the Service’s recruitment unit in a two-year span, Fernandes was promoted to Staff Inspector and assigned to 54 Division as the unit commander.

Promoted again in May 2003, the new Superintendent was placed in charge of Communications Services, responsible for the city’s 9-1-1 calls. During his tenure, he oversaw the implementation of the automated and vehicle locating system, advance mapping, the building of a police command centre and enhanced communication between emergency service partners.

A mentor to young people seeking to pursue a career in law enforcement in the province, Fernandes formed the Organization of South Asian Police Officers of Ontario that assists people in becoming police officers.

Fernandes, an Aide de Camp to the province’s Lieutenant Governor for the past 17 years, said retirement from the Service is not on the horizon.

“I have a wheelchair ramp at my station,” he said, with a big smile. “I still have lots of energy and a passion for what I am doing. I don’t plan to leave this job anytime soon.”

The Order of Merit of the Police Forces was created 14 years ago to recognize conspicuous merit and exceptional service by Canadian police members whose contributions extend beyond protecting their communities. 

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