Keeping school children safe on city streets is a Toronto Police Service priority.
In the last three decades, the Service has been an integral part of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) - administered School Safety Patrol program initiative introduced in North America in 1922.
Nearly 90 city schools and 2,300 patrollers are engaged in the program.
For the past 17 years, CAA South Central Ontario has recognized a police service and officer for significant contributions in keeping elementary school students safe.
This year’s recipient of the CAA School Safety Patrol Program Achievement Award is the TPS and Constable Jill Miller, who has managed the program for the last 11 years.
“The commitment and enthusiasm of Jill has, no doubt, contributed to the program’s success,” said CAA South Central Ontario (SCO) community relations specialist Leslie Rocha at the awards ceremony at TPS headquarters on December 3. “Her leadership has made a difference in Toronto by ensuring the safety of our children. In the eight years that I have been privileged to work with her, she has shown an incredible dedication to the program and the patrollers.
“Jill is always prepared to support the schools and re-train patrollers in the middle of the year, if necessary, and she’s always willing to lend a helping hand and work with others to make improvements… Her positive attitude is contagious and I value her partnership and appreciate her excitement and passion for the importance of safety in our community.”
Miller attended her first CAA School Safety Patrol Leadership camp in 2003 and has been an integral part of the camp’s executive committee for almost a decade.
“She has effectively helped to build the CAA to be the best camp experience for our patrollers,” Rocha said. “Her creativity and passion make her an awesome team member. She shares her ideas and works hard to ensure that the patrollers have positive experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime. She strives to make the camp experience the best it can be for the kids, ensuring they are all engaged.”
In conjunction with the CAA, Miller created the first patroller appreciation day at the movies, four years ago, and she was the foot-patrol host for the CAA’s new school safety patrol training video shown to over 20,000 patrollers across the province.
In 2013, the Traffic Services member collaborated with Constable Tina Trepanier to expand the bus patrol program to French schools. They recruited 16 new schools to the program and, in the process, increased the bus patrol program from 203 patrollers in 2013 to 477 this year.
“She proudly represents Toronto Police as she speaks to the importance of safety and leadership in our communities,” Rocha noted. “…Her dedication teaches the patrollers life lessons that help build character, friendships and memories that the students will take with them for a lifetime. She’s truly a remarkable person, a leader in the community and a great role model for future leaders.”
Miller also organizes a Toronto Zoo trip as a reward for patrollers’ hard work and five-day recognition events at the end of the school year to acknowledge patrollers’ volunteer service.
In addition to the awards to the TPS and Miller, the CAA SCO presented a cheque for $1,500 to the TPS to use to enhance the patroller program.
Chief Bill Blair accepted the award on behalf of the Service and heaped praise on Miller for her exceptional leadership.
“Great teams need great leaders and you have certainly provided leadership to this program,” said Blair. “Your dedication to this program, I think, stands as an incredible example to what members of the Toronto Police Service bring to the City of Toronto. I sometimes think that that gets lost.”
Blair said the program transforms kids, many of whom are shy when they enter, to become leaders in their community.
The safety of our kids is our highest priority and this school safety patrol program has been such an important part of our relationship with young people in the city and in leadership development
“The safety of our kids is our highest priority and this school safety patrol program has been such an important part of our relationship with young people in the city and in leadership development,” said Blair. “…I have seen the evolution and development of those relationships. One of the most extraordinary things that you see is these kids come together, as they gain confidence in themselves and they become better citizens and as they demonstrate what they are capable of…This is more than just a program about safety. It does extraordinary work for the City of Toronto.”
Miller, who joined the Service 27 years ago, said the patrollers are part of a larger community of dedicated volunteers in schools throughout the city.
“It’s truly a team effort,” she pointed out, “It’s absolutely amazing the heights these young people between the ages of 10-13 could reach. They save lives and set good examples in keeping kids safe regardless of the weather conditions. To see how eager they are, and how important this program is to them, is what I love so much and why I am so passionate about it.”
A former cadet and girl guide, Miller has been a Royal Canadian Naval Reserves member for the past 30 years.
“I have been in a uniform for most of my life,” she said. “Since I was five years old, I wanted to a police officer or a member of the military.”
Nearly 800 schools in the province participate in the School Safety Patrol program and the CAA SCO partners with over 55 police services to deliver the program.