After 14 years as a police officer in his native Greece, Dimitrios Kritsotakis thought his policing career was over when he migrated to Canada, in 2012, with his new wife.
After a few months working as a bylaw enforcement officer, he felt the urge to get back into policing.
“It’s like I took a two-and-a-half-year time-out and now I am back,” said Kritsotakis, who was among 47 Toronto Police recruits presented with their badges at a graduation ceremony on May 12 at Toronto Police College. “It’s a great feeling, again, to be doing something I like while bringing the skills I acquired in Greece to Toronto.”
He said there was a major difference in the training in the two countries.
“In Greece, cadets train for two years while it was condensed into a few months here and was of a much higher standard,” Kritsotakis said. “…I am a bit older now, so the training was demanding. I, however, enjoyed my time with the other cadets and am set to hit the road.”
Michael Bushey is following in the footstep of his father, Steve Bushey, who retired in 2006 after 35 years on the job.
“I am proud of him for carrying the torch,” said the family patriarch, whose younger son, Bill, is a Parking Enforcement Officer. “It’s something I am pleased to see him doing, but I didn’t force him to do it. This is one of the professions you can’t push someone to do.”
A Durham College sports administration graduate, Michael Bushey was a court officer for five years prior to becoming a uniformed officer.
“This is a proud day for me and my family and I am so glad that my dad is here to present me with my badge,” he said.
This was the first graduation ceremony for Mark Saunders in his new role as Chief of Police.
Reminding the cadets that graduation day is special, he encouraged them to savour, cherish and share the special moment.
“It is a moment from which you can draw inspiration and courage in the most challenging times of your professional career,” he said. “It is a moment made more special because we share it with the people who are most important in our lives and I would like to take this moment to acknowledge your family and friends. They have come to share in the celebration of this milestone in your life. They have come to watch you enter into what we consider the policing family.”
Saunders re-iterated that the graduates are in a demanding profession and much is expected of them as they make the transition from student to rookie officers.
“You will now be assigned to frontline policing in busy Divisions throughout the city,” he told them. “Your impact will be felt immediately. Your coach officers and senior members of the Service will now introduce you to the world of ‘real-life policing.’ You will have the opportunity to work with excellent teachers and mentors. You will learn from their wisdom, experience and the confidence that comes from ‘having been there and having done that.’ Your coach officers deserve your respect. The time that you spend with them will set you on the correct path for a successful career.”
While re-assuring the graduates that they belong to a generation of the best-trained police officers in the profession, the city’s top cop urged them to perform their duties with integrity, honesty and fairness in order to earn the trust and respect of the community they will serve.
He advised them that this will not be easy, since they will be challenged by rude and aggressive people, violent criminals, individuals who exploit the most vulnerable in society and those who do not deserve respect.
Your job is to make the world a better place, a safer place. Do not let the worst of society deter you from your mission. There is great power in professionalism, courtesy, commitment and dedication to duty
“Do not let such individuals rob you of your professionalism and humanity,” Saunders said. “Your job is to make the world a better place, a safer place. 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 career, you will make decisions every day. Your decisions are important. They will directly affect the safety and security of our citizens. You have the power to deprive a citizen of his 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. They must be made for the right reasons. They must always be guided by the rule of law and for the public good.”
In making those decisions, Saunders pointed out to the graduates that there is no issue which has a greater potential to undermine and destroy the Service’s relationship with the people the Toronto Police serve than the perception that the organization discriminates on the basis of race.
“We must be constantly vigilant against the influence that bias, in all its forms, can have on our decision-making,” he said. “The importance of our decisions demands the best from all of us. Trust your values, trust your training and trust yourselves. Make all your decisions as if the reputation of the entire police profession depends on you doing the right thing. Because, frankly, it does. By putting on that uniform, by carrying that badge and swearing your oath of office, you have accepted responsibility for a legacy of honour and tradition, of service and sacrifice, that have been earned by generations of police officers that have gone before you. Live up to that responsibility and build on that legacy. The future of policing is in your capable hands. Honour the past and build a better future.”
Before introducing Saunders, Toronto Police College Superintendent Peter Lennox acknowledged the instructors and training officers who prepared the recruits for active police work in Canada’s largest and most complex city.
He also urged the rookies to apply the excellent training they have acquired, remain excellent as they begin their new journey, and never quit school.
Trust your values, trust your training and trust yourselves
“We have to be current in the law, knowledgeable about our authorities and our community and thoughtful about how we exercise our role as police officers,” noted Lennox, who joined the Service 35 years ago. “This can’t happen if we walk out there thinking that our training is done. It isn’t. We have to spend our careers – three or four decades – keeping up-to-date with what is going on around us and with what the community expects of us. We have to keep abreast of the latest techniques and requirements of our job… And, remember, the Service will support you financially when you take relevant programs at colleges and universities. That’s how seriously we take continuous career-long learning.”
A total of 87.2 per cent of this year’s graduating class has post-secondary education and 27.7 per cent has previous military or policing experience.
A total of 53.5% of the class speak a language other than English. Of the new recruits who speak a second language, 27.7% speak two or more languages other than English. The languages include Bengali, Creole, Greek, Urdu and Filipino.
“Your diversity is a mirror of our city,” said Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee. “The quality of our Service is strengthened when the diversity of our great city is reflected in those who police it. Through you, we can reach out to our different communities and neighbourhoods, speak to community members in their home languages, build relationships and thus enhance our partnership with the public.”
Mukherjee told the recruits they have an incredible opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact to the safety and well-being of the community they have vowed to serve and protect.
“Be proud of yourselves as you perform your valued responsibilities,” he said. “Take satisfaction in knowing that your role is critical for keeping our city safe and allowing us to enjoy an enviable quality of life. Torontonians trust you and rely on you to keep them safe. Remember that this trust is not a given and it has to be earned every day. And you will earn it by the quality of your conduct, your compassion and your communication.”
Several individual awards were presented at the graduation.
Beijing-born Yanyuan Jing, who migrated to Canada at age five and has a neuroscience and psychology degree from the University of Toronto, captured the Honour Student and Most Proficient Student Awards for achieving an overall mark of 96.7 per cent. She also clinched the Diversity & Inclusion Award.
Former St. Mary’s Huskies football running back Allistair Blair was the recipient of the Physical Training Most Improved Award while Jonathan Butson won the Physical Training High Performance and Harry Mayzel Leadership Awards.
Matthew Kernen was presented with the Military Veterans Award and former Court Officer Andrew Mason was the valedictorian.
An honourary police badge was presented to Zul Kassamali – he was accompanied by his daughter Salima – for his nearly three decades of volunteering to improve community-police relations. He’s the past chair of the Toronto Police South & West Asian Consultative Committee and a member of the Toronto Police Recruits Coalition.