For Constable Sheena Cannon, handing over a police badge to her husband was an achievement exceeding exchanging rings on their wedding day four years ago.
“Marriage is about love,” she said, prior to presenting Joshua Cannon with his badge at the Toronto Police graduation ceremony on September 10. “I feel like this is the end of something that we both set out to accomplish and that was to become police officers. It was a mutual ambition while we were dating and we have achieved our goal through a lot of hard work and effort and by juggling the kids.”
The couple has two small children, two years and 15 months.
“Their grandparents and a nanny will care for them while we are at work,” she said.
The holder of an arts & science diploma from George Brown College, Joshua Cannon was a Toronto Police Auxiliary officer for five years at 52 Division and a court officer for six years.
“I want to think that I paid my dues,” he said. “I have always wanted to be a cop and most of what I did in school and later on in the workforce revolved around policing.”
The new recruits included Thushanth Selvakumar, who made history by becoming the first Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) graduate to make the transition to a Toronto Police officer.
“I have been waiting for this moment for years and I can’t believe it’s happening now,” he said. “I am ready to hit the road.”
Zhongjie Gan expressed a similar feeling.
“What is happening today in my life means so much,” said the former Garda guard, who migrated from China 12 years ago. “I always wanted to do this and help my community to be better.”
The graduation ceremony took place at the start-of-the art Toronto Police College.
"We welcome all of the families to this college but today – notwithstanding this extraordinary facility – is a celebration of not bricks and mortar but about our most important asset which is the resource that delivers on our promise to keep the people of Toronto safe,” Chief Bill Blair said. “It’s a celebration that marks a new beginning for 89 police officers who, today, will celebrate the successful completion of the first chapter of their professional careers.”
Blair said the Toronto Police Service has set a benchmark in the province and Canada for attracting the very best and most diverse group of men and women into the profession of policing.
“As new graduates, you are poised to write the next chapter of a proud and honourable history of service with the Toronto Police Service,” he added. “What you have agreed to is a great responsibility…This is a moment to be savoured by all of you, to be cherished, to be shared and to be remembered. It’s a moment from which you can draw inspiration and courage in the most challenging times of your professional career and, of course, it’s a moment made much more special because we have the opportunity to share it with people who are most important in your lives, your families and friends.”
As new graduates, you are poised to write the next chapter of a proud and honourable history of service with the Toronto Police Service
As they embark on the next phase of their career, to frontline policing duties across the city, Blair cautioned the new officers that they will face challenges along the way.
“You will be challenged at times by rude and aggressive people, you will encounter violent criminals, people who assault women and abuse children, you will have to deal with people who are dishonest, who lack integrity and who have no honour,” he said. “You will encounter people who, frankly, are not worthy of your respect.
“…Do not let such individuals rob you of your professionalism or your humanity. Your job is to make the world a better place, a safer place and you must set an example for others to follow. Do not let the worst of our society deter us from our mission. I want to assure you there is great power in professionalism, courtesy, commitment and a dedication to duty and, as police officers, we have a responsibility to set a high standard for honour, integrity and honesty that others can be inspired by to follow.”
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee noted the incredible diversity of the recruiting class with varied careers and educational backgrounds.
Of the 89 graduates, 56.2 per cent speak a language other than English, 34.8 per cent are visible minorities and 20.2 per cent have previous military or policing experience.
“Your diversity is a mirror of our city and in it lies our strength,” he told the graduates. “The quality of our Service is strengthened when the diversity of our great city is reflected in those who police it. Through you, we can reach out to our different communities and neighbourhoods, speak to community members in their home languages, build relationships and thus enhance our partnership with the public.”
In launching their careers as police officers, Mukherjee reminded the graduates that they have an incredible opportunity to make a significant and lasting contribution to the safety and well-being of the community they have vowed to serve and protect.
"Remember that Torontonians trust you and rely on you to keep them safe and nothing undermines public trust as much as any suspicion or suggestion that police officers’ actions are lacking in honesty and integrity,” he said. “The entire organization pays a heavy price whenever there is such a suspicion or suggestion. This public trust is not a given. It has to be earned every day and you earn it by the quality of your conduct, your compassion and your communication.
“At all times, be courteous, ethical and professional in the way you perform your job. Use your training well and, as you go about your duties in the neighbourhoods and communities to which you will be assigned and, as you respond to calls for help, remember the paramount importance of maintaining civility in your interactions while respecting the human rights of those whom you serve.”
Valedictorian Julia Roizman praised the training officers and congratulated her classmates for successfully completing the intense five-month training program.
“We have officially started the transition from citizen to police officer and, yes, there is a distinction,” said the University of Western Ontario kinesiology graduate, who was a self-employed business owner prior to pursuing a law-enforcement career. “When you put that uniform on, it means something. It’s so much bigger than you as an individual,. We no longer only represent ourselves, but also our Service and the entire profession of police officers everywhere.”
Several individual awards were presented at the graduation ceremony.
Michael Kremmer, who has a diploma in police foundations from Seneca College, clinched the Honour Student Award, with a 94.5 per cent mark, for achieving the highest standard in academic exams while Anthony Hampton – who has a Master’s in Canadian history and was a curriculum writer for Virtual High School Inc. prior to joining the Service – won the Physical Training Most Improved and Harry Mayzel Leadership Awards.
Kyle Langdon captured the Physical Training High Performance Award, achieving Level 14 in the shuttle run which is a new Toronto Police record, while former court officer Evan Guertin was the recipient of the Military Veterans Award.