As Chief Mark Saunders was sorting through his mail several months ago, there was one that caught his attention.
It was from the Chancellery of Honours, informing him that Canada’s Governor-General David Johnston had appointed him an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces for his outstanding service and leadership.
“I read the letter twice and, once I realized what it said, I was so happy that I called my wife and son to share the good news with them,” an elated Saunders said. “This is a fantastic honour, particularly when I have never considered serving the public a job. I love doing that. To receive an award like this, constantly reminds me that you are being watched and noticed every day. If you invest time in serving the public, every now and then you will get that recognition.
“Through being a positive role model, there are rewards that are received. You don’t do it for rewards but you do it because it’s the right thing. Through the fact that I have an opportunity of being a role model for my son and others, I hope that is positive energy that’s passed on to others.”
The Order of Merit of the Police Forces was created 15 years ago to recognize conspicuous merit and exceptional service by Canadian police members, whose contributions extend beyond protecting their communities.
Saunders joins retired Chief William Blair, who was appointed in 2007, and Deputy Chiefs Mike Federico and Peter Sloly, who were invested six years ago.
“When I joined the Service 32 years ago, I never thought I would be in a group like this. It’s very flattering and I will try to hold true to the values and examples they have set for me.”
Federico was promoted within the Order, while Superintendent Don Campbell, Sergeant Stephen Hicks and Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack were invested with Saunders on October 5 in Quebec City.
“It’s a singular honour, but it really reflects the positive impact that working for Toronto Police in the service of our community has had on my career,” said Federico. “I am proud of the Toronto Police Service and humbled that I am being recognized.”
The honour is just reward for Campbell, in his fourth decade with the Service.
“The experience in receiving this award was enhanced by the quality of the leadership present, the Governor General and the RCMP Commissioner’s remarks at La Citadelle in the historic city of Quebec,” said Campbell, who was nominated by the Office of the Chief of Police. “I will remember this as one of the highlights of my career.”
McCormack was honoured and moved by the appointment.
“It signifies the recognition of a lot of years of community work and policing,” he said. “This, for sure, is a significant milestone in my career.”
A Service member since 1987, McCormack’s father, William McCormack, was Chief of Police from 1989 to 1995.
“My dad was really proud of me when he learned of the appointment,” said McCormack.
Hicks has been at the forefront of police-led community programming for the past 16 years.
In 1999, he established For KICKS (For Kids Involving Cops & Community for Knowledge and Sport) that offers young people in 31 Division the opportunity to participate in physical fitness activities and build self-esteem. He also started a high school quarterback challenge at Downsview Park that allows young men in the community to compete for post-secondary scholarships and Generation Change, which provides youth with essential life skills for personal growth and development.
In the last decade, he and fellow officers have raised approximately $300,000 for SickKids Hospital by cycling from Toronto to American cities.
Hicks hails from a long line of family members to have served Toronto Police.
His grandfather, David Hicks, was a police officer in Ireland prior to joining the Metropolitan Toronto Police, while his father, Fred Hicks, retired as a constable 18 years ago, after 32 years on the job. He died in 2006. Hicks’ uncle, Cecil, retired as a staff sergeant, while his cousin – Dave, who is Cecil’s son – left the Service 16 years ago.