The lobby at Headquarters was buzzing as over 200 Ryerson Criminology students and over 75 officers mingled during the second Coffee with Cops event.
Coffee With Cops is an opportunity for Criminology students from Ryerson’s undergraduate program to meet one-on-one with officers from different units, Divisions and ranks to understand policing better.
For fourth-year Criminology student, Antonio Civichino, the opportunity allowed him to do something different and get out of the classroom lectures mode.
“This is an engaged learning experience. We are so used to being in lectures but this is all relevant to the course.”
“It’s an interesting career to get into,” said second-year student Kirpal Sahansra. “That is why we are here learning about training and the job and sacrifices even.”
Talking to officers was eye-opening for Sahansra, who said it was good to know he could find someone who he could look up to. The event also removed the intimidation that can come up when talking to an officer in uniform on the street, said Sahansra. “It’s nice to see they are so open and welcoming and willing to talk about their experience.”
Many of the students view policing as a career option.
“Our students are very interested in joining the Toronto Police Service … it’s a perfect union of students interested and amazing people who are working here,” said Chair of the Criminology program Kim Varma.
Varma says the program is interdisciplinary, encompassing issues of crime, justice and law, and when students get the opportunity to meet Service members, they realize the different number of jobs within the organization. “There is so much you can do in an organization like this.”
Varma was also thankful to Deputy Mike Federico for initiating the first Coffee with Cops, which has only gotten bigger in its second year.
“It’s always nice to see young people interested in criminology. We could always use smart, intelligent investigators in the unit,” said Homicide Staff Inspector Greg McLane, who took time to speak to students about his job.
Chief Blair was presented with a Ryerson Criminology sweatshirt, which he promptly put on, followed by Deputy Chiefs Mike Federico, Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders.
Chief Blair told the students about the way policing had changed in the last few decades, noting that, when he was a criminology student, policing was still very mysterious and obscure to the public but that has changed with better communication between Service members and the public.
He was encouraged to see so many university students interested in policing.
“There is nothing better than those who care about public safety and commitment to public service,” said the Chief.
For Constable Adrienne Gilvesy the possibility to talk to students reminded her of what it was like trying to get into the Service five years ago.
“It is easy to forget what it was like applying for the job,” said the 11 Division Community Response officer. “I didn’t have this opportunity back then and it would have been nice to get a better understanding of the job.”
Associate Professor Sara Thompson, of the Criminology Department, said her students took a lot from the event.
“I have received over 20 emails from students, all of whom were thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with officers from a variety of different squads and units,” she said.
Thompson added that, in particular, female and racialized male students benefited from the event. “Several of my female students and several of my racialized male students wrote to tell me that they were previously unsure about a career in policing, due to the perception that female and/or racialized officers may experience difficulties working within the broader police culture. After having the opportunity to come to HQ and speak with TPS members - they all indicated that they no longer have any concerns.”
Thompson said TPS can now expect a large number of Ryerson applicants from the program over the next few years.
The event was organized by Sherene Jattan, Business and Community Coordinator for the Pan/Parapan American Games. "I strongly believe in giving back to the community, and for students it is important that they can go to other people and learn about their experiences." Jattan applauded officers for taking the time out to help the students. "Our cops are amazing and I saw such amazing interactions with the kids today," she said.