For many graduates, becoming an Auxiliary officer is a steppingstone for potential employment as uniformed Toronto Police Service officers.
That, however, is not the case with Andy Mitchell, who retired this year as an Inspector with the Barrie Police Service Auxiliary Unit.
Just months after returning to Etobicoke with his wife and four children, Mitchell is back in uniform serving the people of Toronto.
He was among 58 graduates representing two classes who graduated on November 26 at an impressive ceremony at the Toronto Police College.
“I enjoy being part of the community, the police family and also giving back,” said Mitchell, a senior manager with Bell Canada. “My father was a volunteer firefighter for 41 years and I am following in his footsteps.”
Born and raised in Bracebridge, Mitchell –educated in Barrie – spent a few years in Toronto before moving to Horseshoe Valley.
“I enjoyed my time with the Barrie Service, whose Auxiliary Unit was about the size of one of this year’s graduating classes,” he added. “We made the decision to come back to Etobicoke because it’s a vibrant community that we want to be part of.”
With a wealth of Auxiliary police experience, Mitchell had some words of wisdom for his fellow graduates.
“You should be extremely proud because you have just gone through some of the most spectacular, comprehensive and professional training that you will ever receive in policing,” he said. “Use it wisely to serve the community.”
Mitchell comes to Toronto highly recommended by Barrie’s top cop Kimberley Greenwood.
“Andy developed several new initiatives and was very much immersed in our community,” said Greenwood, a Toronto Police officer for 32 years. “He was very dedicated and committed to ensuring that our Service did things very well. I was one of the first to offer up a reference because I know that the excellent work he did in Barrie could transition to the work that he could do with Toronto Police.”
Nearly 400 Auxiliaries volunteer 81,500 hours annually, assisting in community mobilization initiatives, crime prevention programs, special events, parades, searches for missing persons and emergency call-outs.
Tyrell Houlder was exposed to policing after participating in the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) summer program five years ago.
“I can remember thinking that I wanted to be a cop since I was about seven years old,” said Houlder, who was assigned to 54 Division as a YIPI participant. “As I got older, policing seemed to be a dangerous profession. But when I went through the YIPI program, which was simply amazing, the spark was ignited and I told myself that policing is the career for me.”
Houlder, who graduated from Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and completed a Police Foundations program, also has another reason for wanting to become a police officer.
“My dad really wanted to be a Toronto policeman, but he didn’t meet the criteria,” he said. “Hopefully, I will proudly wear the uniform and make him feel proud.”
Fatima Khan has always been intrigued by the intensive work police officers put in to resolve cases.
“I am a problem-solver so becoming a detective is something that has always appealed to me,” she said. “I also want to give back to the community and be part of Toronto Police’s very diverse workforce.”
A York University environmental studies graduate, Khan is an event security specialist.
“Volunteering first as an Auxiliary, I feel, is a good opportunity to get a taste for what Toronto Police is all about,” added Khan, who enjoys horseback riding, reading and exploring the city. “It’s a steppingstone for me in my attempt to become a full-time officer.”
By making the choice that you have made, and by making the choice to serve your fellow citizens in the uniform of the Toronto Police Auxiliary, you are setting a fine example for all of us about what good citizenship is all about
While comfortable in his role as an Air Canada project manager for the last five years, policing remains an option for Dwayne D’Souza.
“I always wanted to be a cop, but my career path changed because I love travelling,” said D’Souza, who migrated from Goa 12 years ago. “I have a stable job, but becoming a police officer is still at the back of my mind.”
For now, D’Souza is using his spare time to give back to the community.
“I have free time in the evenings and on weekends and I wanted to join a volunteer organization,” he added. “It made sense to put on a uniform and fulfil that role.”
The new recruit said the most challenging part of the training was the physical exercises.
“It was intense and we were really pushed on some days,” he pointed out. “But I met a lot of great people and I am proud to wear the Toronto Police Service Auxiliary uniform.”
In his last Auxiliary graduation as Chief of Police, Bill Blair reminded the graduates there is no higher calling than service.
“There is no better expression of that calling than service to the public,” said the Chief. “By making the choice that you have made, and by making the choice to serve your fellow citizens in the uniform of the Toronto Police Auxiliary, you are setting a fine example for all of us about what good citizenship is all about… Young people need good examples to follow and tonight we are joined by good examples of citizenship, people who are willing to make a commitment to serve their community with honour and a profound sense of duty. That is an example that all young people should have the benefit of.
“…In the choice that you have made, you demonstrate the value of citizenship and you set an example for all of us to admire and to aspire to. But I also want to remind you that, when you put that uniform on, you accept responsibility for the reputation of everyone who has ever worn that uniform, not only Auxiliary members but serving members of the police. When you put that uniform on and when you step out into our community, you represent a legacy of service and sacrifice of generations that went before you.”
Blair urged the graduates to treat the community with respect, dignity and in a bias-free manner.
“There is nothing that could be more corrosive to our relationship with the people of our city than any belief that we deliver our services with any bias,” he added. “So I want you to abide by our shared commitment and values to ensure that we treat all the people that we serve fairly.”
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee reminded the graduates that the Auxiliary program has a long and proud history and they are part of the valuable resource to the community.
“This vital program provides our citizens with the opportunity to be a part of a dedicated and committed team of trained volunteers,” he said. “Through this program, members of the public forge a unique and invaluable partnership with members of the Service. This enhances the services provided to the community and allows for police to engage our diverse communities in providing crime-prevention initiatives as well as involvement in special events that are integral to our great city. It’s community policing at its best.”
The Auxiliary program was established 58 years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. In the last five decades, members have provided countless hours of service during the 2010 G20 Summit, papal visits in 1984 and 2002 during World Youth Day celebrations, at the 2003 Rolling Stones concert and at the sites of the 1962 propane plant explosion in Maple, the 1969 natural gas explosion in Malton and the 1979 trail derailment in Mississauga.
“You have now become an ambassador and vital link between your community and the Toronto Police,” Auxiliary Superintendent Frank Fernandes, who joined the Service in September 1971, told the graduates. “There will be expectations and there will be sacrifices, not only on your part but also on the part of your families… We applaud each of you for your community spirit and commitment and we thank you for choosing the Toronto Police Service Auxiliary program. You have chosen the best organization to serve in your volunteer efforts… If you never disgrace your Auxiliary Police uniform, it will never disgrace you. Respect it and wear it with pride.”
In each graduating class, the student who demonstrates outstanding performance in the various training programs is presented with the Julian Fantino Award for their proficiency. A former chief, Fantino, began his career as an Auxiliary member.
This year’s winners were Andy Mitchell and Centre for Immigrant & Community Services resource & communications officer Rex Liu, who has a degree in journalism and a Master’s in project management.
Superintendent Peter Lennox presented the class valedictorian awards to Parks Canada employee Diana Smyth and Courtney Hewett who is an Ontario College of Trades training & learning coordinator.
“The guest lectures and the all-star officer safety section team made our training at the college top notch,” said Smyth , a Rouge National Urban Park interpretation officer & coordinator.