The Service has had challenges recruiting members of the Somali community.
Abdikarim Isse hopes to change that now he’s a uniformed officer.
He was among 89 recruits sworn in at a graduation ceremony on January 8 at the Toronto Police College.
A technology analyst with TELUS Health & Financial Systems prior to joining the Service, Isse says he’s aware of the paucity of officers who identify as Somalian and will play his part to encourage members of his growing community to consider policing as a career option.
“I know there are just a handful of us on the Service,” he said. “We have a large Somali community in Toronto and I think I can be a valuable asset helping to bridge the gap between them and the police and spread the word that policing can be a very rewarding career.”
Born in Somalia, Isse migrated to Canada in 1993 at age 14.
He was turned on to policing about six years ago while coaching basketball in Scarborough.
“I noticed an obvious disconnect with how the young people view things in our society,” said Isse, who also runs a summer camp for youths. “By becoming a police officer, I want to show them that it’s possible to believe in themselves and achieve great things in this city, which is their home.”
By becoming a police officer, I want to show them that it’s possible to believe in themselves and achieve great things in this city, which is their home.
The new recruiting class includes Hamid Hamze, who worked in policing for two years as mandatory national service in Iran after graduating with a physical education and sports science degree from Central Azad University in Tehran.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” said the married father of one child, whose wife is expecting. “The process to get where I am today has been hard and challenging, but I finally made it.”
Arriving in Canada six years ago, Hamze was determined to pursue a career in policing.
“My English language skills were not strong and, of course, one takes time in adjusting to a new environment,” said Hamze, whose application to join the Service was twice rejected. “But nothing was going to stop me. Serving as an Auxiliary for two years with York Regional Police helped me gain the confidence and skills I needed to make sure I was not denied a third time. I like to interact with people and this career will allow me to do that. While we have to enforce the law, that’s not all that this job requires. I will do my part in keeping members in the community safe and happy. That’s what I am about.”
Hamze has been assigned to 53 Division.
The founder of UnRealty Inc., Anthony Deonarain, helped buyers purchase over $40 million in condos and homes in Greater Toronto.
“I wanted to do some good in the world and make a difference in people's lives and that’s why I got into real estate, because buying a home is the biggest investment people make,” said the Ryerson University Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate. “I was living well, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I just felt I could make a much bigger and tangible impact in policing our diverse community. That’s my calling.”
New Mayor John Tory attended the graduation and promised the new officers that they can count on his support. He also reminded them that much is expected of them as they begin their new journey.
“The words ‘high standards’ are a good place to begin,” said Tory, who also sits on the Toronto Police Services Board. “From those who are given significant responsibilities and special powers, and I would include elected representatives like me and police officers like you, high standards are expected from them. That means following the rules, which are pretty basic, but it goes well beyond that.
“It involves, for example, remaining approachable and accessible to people. We simply must never let our men and women who serve in policing become removed from the community and the public.”
Tory urged the new recruits to demonstrate professionalism, honesty, integrity and equanimity at all times.
“There will be times when you are not treated with respect and I have seen that,” he said. “But you must not succumb to the temptation to behave in the same manner. Like me, you are now a public servant and, in a diverse community like ours, respect goes beyond just being patient and courteous.”
This was the last recruiting class that Chief Bill Blair presided over. His contract ends in April.
“Graduations are among my favourite days as Chief,” he said. “In so many ways, it’s a celebration. It’s a celebration that recognizes the special relationship that exists between the members of the Toronto Police Service and the people we serve. It’s a celebration that marks a new beginning for you, as you celebrate the successful completion of the first chapter of your professional career. It’s also a celebration of renewal as a new generation of dedicated public servants takes their place on the frontlines of public safety and joins the ranks of one of the finest police services in the world.”
Blair assured the recruits that they are about to embark on a bold and exciting phase of their new careers.
“You are transitioning from recruit to rookie and I want to assure you that, in this new role, you will be most welcomed by those who graduated in September 2014 as your arrival elevates them to the coveted status of veteran. Don’t worry. In Toronto, your rookie status will not last long. Experience comes fast on the streets and in the neighbourhoods of this city and you will soon be very comfortable and confident in your new role. You will now be assigned to frontline policing in busy Divisions throughout the city and your impact will be felt immediately.”
Emphasizing that the future of policing is in their hands, the city’s top cop encouraged the newcomers to trust their values, training and themselves as they set out on their new career.
“Make all of your decisions as if the reputation of the entire police profession depends on you doing the right thing,” he said. “Because, frankly, it does. By putting on that uniform, by carrying that badge and swearing your oath of office, you have the accepted the responsibility for a legacy of honour and tradition of service and sacrifice that has been earned by generations of police officers who have gone before you.
“Do not let the worst of society deter you from your mission. There is great power in professionalism, courtesy, commitment and dedication to duty. In your policing careers, you will make decisions every day. Your decisions are important as they will directly affect the safety and security of our citizens. You have the power to deprive a citizen of their liberty. You will decide who to stop and what charges to lay. You will make decisions about the use of force, perhaps even deadly force. Your decisions must be made wisely and lawfully. Your decisions must be made for the right reasons and they must also be guided by the rule of law and made for the public good. The decisions that we make are too important to be influenced by prejudice and ignorance.”
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee told the graduates that the future belongs to them and they will be serving a public that has extremely high expectations.
“They want a police service that will keep them safe,” he pointed out. “They want to live in a community where they can live, work, play and visit, knowing they will be safe. They want a police service and individual members that will treat them at all times with professionalism, courtesy, respect and utmost integrity and a police service whose members will pay great attention to the human rights of those they interact with. They also want a police service whose members will make every reasonable effort to save lives and one that’s responsive to their needs.
“…It’s important for you to know that joining this profession and joining this police service marks the start of a great career and perhaps the most important part of your personal journey. Only you can decide what future you want for yourself and the positive change you want to create. I urge you to seize the opportunity before you. Enjoy it, have fun, learn, work to make that all-important difference for the community we serve and, finally, be safe. The future is yours and I am confident that it’s in good hands.”
As part of their comprehensive preparation to serve and protect, the recruits were exposed to community policing, learning and development standards, investigative, armament and police vehicle operations training.
Superintendent Peter Lennox, the Toronto Police College unit commander, praised the instructors and reminded the recruits that graduation is the first step in a long journey.
“You are not done,” he said. “Your training, education and development are not finished… You have been given a great start by the wonderful instructors, but now it’s up to you to keep current over the next few decades as your skills are deepened and honed by experience.”
Martina Kovacevic, a data entry clerk with the Windsor Police Service prior to joining Toronto Police, was this year’s class valedictorian.
“I am so proud to be representing my class,” said the rookie, who is assigned to 55 Division. “It’s a great honour. Becoming a police officer is a lifelong dream fulfilled and I couldn't be happier today.”
It was no surprise that former Royal Hamilton Light Infantry captain Victoria Adams captured the drill and deportment award.
“I loved the structure and discipline that my position with the Canadian Armed Forces offered, but I was doing the same thing over and over,” said the McMaster University life science graduate. “Policing, however, offers a wide variety of opportunities and Toronto Police was my first choice because I wanted to settle in this city.”
Colin Hendry, a former sergeant with Grampian Police in Scotland and the holder of a Master’s degree in accountancy from the University of Aberdeen, was recognized with the Harry Mayzel Leadership Award, while University of Toronto criminology graduate Marc Grosman was the recipient of the Most Proficient Student and Physical Training Most Improved Awards.
While in Grade 10, Grosman was a co-op student with the then-Toronto Police Fraud Squad.
“That opportunity opened my eyes to policing and was one of the reasons why I pursued criminology in high school and was an Auxiliary officer for five years at 13 Division,” said Grosman, who has been assigned to 53 Division, where he once lived.
The recruiting class comprised 20.5 per cent women and 39.8 per cent visible minorities. In addition, 81.8 per cent successfully completed post-secondary education and 20.5 per cent have previous military or policing experience.