In February 2009, Detective Richard Harris was the first officer on the scene of a violent robbery that left a victim with a permanent spinal cord injury.
The man was shot while he lay on the ground, after a violent struggle with three robbers, who then fled the store empty-handed.
Over time, the victim and his family lost hope of police ever catching the people who had caused so much trauma in their lives, but Harris diligently worked on the case. Four years later, the suspects were arrested and a violent street gang was dismantled. For his hard work and dedication, Harris was presented, by Chief Mark Saunders and Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee, with a Service Commendation on May 27. He was one of 143 members who were recognized for the excellent job they had done over the years in going above and beyond the call of duty.
“It was a really violent crime and it had to come to a successful conclusion. The victim almost paid the ultimate sacrifice for this and it was just something I felt had to be done,” explained the Hold Up detective, on why he pursued the crime so relentlessly over such a long period of time.
TPSB Chair Alok Mukherjee said the commendations are examples of the way police officers make a difference.
“It is important to recognize individuals, such as those we are celebrating today, whose dedication and heroism makes our city a better place,” Mukherjee said. “They are living examples of our Service’s core values. Doing their jobs in neighbourhoods across Toronto, they embody those core values in everything that they do.”
Chief Mark Saunders also congratulated the officers and civilians receiving awards for their hard work and dedication to their jobs, saying members had demonstrated “outstanding investigative work, acts of bravery, altruism and profound contribution to public safety.”
Many officers won awards for their quick-thinking actions that saved the lives of others – often when they were off-duty.
Constable Marc Joseph received a commendation for rescuing a woman who was about to take her own life. Joseph, who was off-duty on July 3, 2014, and was heading to a soccer game, saw a car parked near a bridge above the highway. He slowed down and noticed a woman standing on the other side of the railing. The constable quickly parked his car and asked if anyone had called 9-1-1. No one had. He instructed a man to call the police and then quietly approached the woman, trying not to startle her.
We understand the dangers you face on a daily basis, and the risks that are a part of this job. We are truly grateful to you for keeping the city of Toronto safe.
“Her one hand was off the railing, she was looking down like she was going to go. I didn’t want to startle her, so I ran up behind her and grabbed her by the waist and pulled her over the ledge and held onto her until the police came,” remembers Joseph, of the moment, which he says all took less than ten minutes. In the end, he said he felt relieved that he was able to get to the woman before she jumped.
Such acts are what the Chief said were “above and beyond the call of duty.”
He recognized that policing can often be a thankless job, and said he was there to let members know their efforts were very much appreciated.
“We understand the dangers you face on a daily basis, and the risks that are a part of this job. We are truly grateful to you for keeping the city of Toronto safe. Tonight we honour your bravery, your selflessness, your compassion for mankind and for also doing a good job.
“On behalf of the citizens of Toronto, I thank you for all that you have done and the work that you continue to do,” said Chief Saunders.
Several large teams won for their efforts in large investigations:Project Quell resulted in 22 street-gang members arrested and over 330 charges laid, from drug trafficking to conspiracy to commit indictable offence
Project Dove focused the forced prostitution of girls that led to the arrest of 12 people, charged with 77 human-trafficking-related offences
Project Traveller ended in the execution of 46 warrants last year, the arrest of 53 gang members on 280 charges, as well as the seizure of 37 firearms, $573,000 cash, kilograms of cocaine, heroin and other drugs.
Members were also recognized for their hard work in helping re-engineer the Service to create a sustainable model of policing through the Chief’s Internal Organization Review Team.