Why leave a tenure-track position as a university professor to become a police officer?
“I have been asked that question hundreds of times,” said soft-spoken Dr. William Tippett, among the class of 88 recruits graduating at the Toronto Police College on January 8.
The quality of people that the Service is attracting is reflected in the new recruiting class, which has three rookies with Ph.D. designations. Among the 88 graduates, over 70% have a post-secondary education.
The former instructor in Trent University’s psychology department and adjunct professor at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) School of Health Sciences is fulfilling a lifelong dream to become a cop.
“It’s a career that I have always had an interest in, but it didn’t come along at the time and I got on the academic stream and became immersed in learning and knowledge,” he said. “After our family moved back to Toronto from British Columbia, about two years ago, I told myself it was my turn to follow my dream.”
Tippett is a married father of three small children, including twin boys.
“It’s tough when you have small children and are entering a career that requires me to work shifts,” he said. “My wife, however, is very understanding and very supportive of me pursuing my goal. I spend a lot of time writing articles and working with patients, which is hands-on, but I wanted to do something more hands-on which would make a difference. Policing offers that opportunity.”
Tippett, whose wife is a public-school teacher, graduated from Trent University with a psychology/sociology degree, the University of Essex with a Master’s in cognitive neuropsychology and York University with a Ph.D. in kinesiology & health science.
I wanted to do something more hands-on which would make a difference. Policing offers that opportunity.
His research interest involves exploring the use of a non-invasive psychological testing procedure to detect cognitive decline in individuals with Alzheimer’s and cerebrovascular diseases. To assist with the evaluation, he examines the relationship between visuomotor ability, cognitive variables and brain changes observable using modern neuroimaging methods.
In 2013, Tippett – who conducts research examining the ability of post-stroke patients to produce effective visually guided movements – launched, “Building an Ageless Mind: Preventing and Fighting Brain Aging and Disease.”
A unique source of knowledge, the book addresses curiosity and concerns verbalized by Tippett’s patients who notice changes in the way their mind works as they are getting older.
He said it was an easy choice, when the time came, to select a police service to work for.
“I live in Toronto which has the largest municipal police service in Canada and there are many career opportunities within the organization,” said Tippett, who has made presentations at major Alzheimer’s, neuroscience and psychogeriatric conferences.
A founder and former director of the UNBC’s brain research unit, Tippett said the transition from university teacher to policing has been seamless.
“Universities have structure and discipline, so it’s not unlike that process,” he said. “It’s just a different type and maybe more so for me. I understand process and why it’s done. If you have an understanding of that, then you will have an appreciation of what’s happening. I might have a heightened understanding of why they are doing it, but that makes it easier for me to adapt to the process rather than question it.”
Two other new constables hold doctorates.
A research consultant prior to joining the Service, Paul Brykczynski has a doctorate in modern European history from the University of Michigan and a Master’s and first degree in political science from the University of Toronto.
He said his wife inspired him to become a police officer.
“She’s a mental-health social worker and I always got the sense that she’s making a tremendous difference in the lives of people who desperately need help,” said Brykczynski. “Hearing her talk about her job really pushed me into this profession. It’s one in which I think I could get immense job satisfaction from by helping people in the community.”
A former boxer and martial arts exponent, Brykczynski spent three years as an Auxiliary at 14 Division before applying to become a full-time officer.
Darren Miller was a General Motors line assembly worker, personal trainer and roofer before graduating from Buffalo’s D’Youville College in 2012 with a chiropractic doctorate.
The holder of a Bachelor of Arts in kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario, Miller was on the Oshawa South Chiropractic Clinic staff before entering policing.