First impressions are, for the most part, the most lasting.
As a new immigrant to Canada, 12 years ago, Maria Paz Arias Vernal remembers the friendly police officers she encountered during her first few days in her new homeland.
“It started when I landed and continued shortly afterwards when the first officer I talked to was riding a horse,” she recounted. “He was so warm and friendly and I asked a lot of questions.”
Arias Vernal is among 44 recruits in the new class that reported for their orientation on August 13.
Born in Peru, she migrated to Canada at age 16 in 2003 and graduated with a law degree from Carleton University.
“It was while I was in university that I realized I wanted to do something more than just practise law,” she said. “I wanted to be out in the community, talking, guiding and protecting people. I wanted to inspire others and be part of change and policing offers that.”
After graduating with her law degree, Arias Vernal successfully completed the Humber College police foundations program.
“When I finished that, I travelled to get some life experience that will help me in my new career,” she said.
Toronto was the only police service that Arias Vernal applied to.
“This is where I felt the most comfortable and safe,” she said. “Policing here is different than in Peru and I had to explain that to my parents. I am just happy to be part of the largest municipal police service in Canada.”
We are not looking for warriors anymore. Those days are gone. I am looking for guardians.
New recruit Dranadia Roc shares in her classmates excitement.
“I am so excited and can’t wait to get started.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Roc earned a full basketball scholarship to Florida State University. The Vanier College All-Canadian completed her university education at the University of Windsor, played professional hoops in Iceland and competes in several leagues around the city.
“Some of the fundamentals in basketball, like teamwork, are essential for policing,” she said. “I am also a community person and I have a passion for working with people. I can think of no other way to those do those things than through policing.”
Arias Vernal and Roc are part of a historic cadet class. Never before in Toronto Police history has there been such a high percentage of women in a class.
Of the 44 new recruits, 21 are female.
“This is significant,” said employment unit manager Anne-Marie Henry. “As an organization, we constantly promote the need to hire people who reflect our community. It’s very easy to say we are actively trying to do that. However, this new class demonstrates we mean what we are preaching.”
Henry said the new female recruits are worth their weight in gold.
“It’s an extremely well-educated group with a variety of experiences,” she said. “There is a doctor in the group and half of them have undergraduate degrees.”
Chief Mark Saunders addressed the class at the beginning of their orientation.
While reminding the rookies they are the future of the Service, he told them they have 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 them.
“Public trust is the most important thing in policing,” he said. “We are not looking for warriors anymore. Those days are gone. I am looking for guardians. If you came here for the pursuits, chasing and shooting and all of that, that will organically happen. But if you are looking for those things alone, you are not going to have a long shelf life with Toronto Police.”
Despite the challenges they will face on the job, Saunders urged the recruits to conduct themselves with class, dignity and professionalism at all times.
“When it comes to your conduct, you represent everybody,” he added. “But, most importantly, you represent me. When you do things that are wrong, you also let your colleagues down. By and large, due to comprehensive training and our selection process, we pick the right people, which is why you should be proud that you are here today. A lot of people wanted to be in your seat. Now you have to earn your keep.”
The recruits will spend three weeks at the Toronto Police College before heading to the Ontario Police College in Aylmer for three months of intensive training and preparation. They return to the city in early December for more training and graduate a month later.