Nine-year-old Pranav Mayelam is learning how to skate, thanks to 41 Division officers and Community Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) members.
On March 19, the 41 Division CPLC, along with officers and Auxiliary members, came together to hand out the 150 pairs of skates they collected over the past few weeks at Don Montgomery Arena. The rink was also open for community members with their newly received skates and officers to skate together.
“When everybody comes together and comes out… it removes a barrier. When everyone is hopping around on ice and helping each other up, you are no longer strangers,” said Inspector James Makrell, of the reason for the event.
For Mayelam, it was having officers out on the ice with him that gave him the confidence to skate for the first time.
“He feels safer with the officers around,” said Mayelam’s mother, Sujatha Prabhakaran. “If it wasn’t for an event like this, I wouldn’t have been able to teach my son to skate.”
Similarly, Tharsha Thaya’s nine-year-old and seven-year-old were on the ice with vigour – they were able to do so because Thaya attended the skating event in 2011 and was able to get skates for her two children. Since then, the mother of two has been able to come with her children every year and give back the skates they got the year before for other children to learn how to skate. “Because my kids got skates, they can skate now,” she said.
While the event is to help children get a pair of skates so they can learn, it is also about building relationships with community in the neighbourhood.
For civilian co-chair of the CPLC Augustri Munro, the relationship between officers in her neighbourhood has “drastically changed over the years” and the skate day is just one reflection of that.
She, in particular, is a fan of the Neighbourhood Officer program which she lauds for the change.
“Before they (police) came in as law enforcers, there was a negative antagonistic relationship with them,” she said. Now, according to Munro, since officers have started attending community events, playing with children and interacting with adults, the perception of police has changed.
The skate day for Munro is another way for police to build trust with the community.
“It is good to pull the community together… and seeing police like regular everyday people and talk to them and take pictures… you don’t see that normally,” said Munro.
Other than a donation of 150 skates by community members, the community pulled together in different ways. All 150 pairs of skates were sharpened for free by local sports shop National Sports and the event was DJ’d for free by Simon Tsotsos.