While driving in the Jane and Finch area a few years ago, Steven Tyler was attracted to a lamppost banner advertisement for a basketball coach with the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics & Character Education.
Once recruited to coach the young people in the community, the Guelph resident, a university student in Toronto at the time, called his parents to say he wasn’t coming back home.
“I had kids who couldn’t dribble a ball, so just watching them develop and relishing the contributions I was making made me feel good,” he said. “I enjoyed it and loved the area and Toronto in general.”
Little did Tyler know, at the time, that he was going to be given a bigger platform to serve the Jane-Finch community and the city.
Among the 44 recruits in the new class that graduates on February 4, he has been assigned to 31 Division – the same community where he began teaching basketball.
“I guess I have got be extremely lucky,” Tyler said, after learning of his posting. “I still coach the young people associated with the program and I have a greater appreciation over the years for the many good and positive things happening in that community.”
This is the first full-time job for the University of Guelph/Humber Justice Studies program graduate.
“I have a few cousins with both the Guelph and Waterloo police services and I have stories from them about the positive impact their jobs have allowed them to make in their communities,” he said. “That is sort of what inspired me to want to become a cop.”
For Edward De Nobrega, it’s been a longtime goal.
“I felt I was getting up there in age, and time was running out, even though I am as fit as ever,” said the 42-year-old martial arts exponent who fought professionally for five years and was once ranked eighth in the world in Muay Thai, a combat sport that uses stand-up striking with various clinching techniques.
De Nobrega said a few of his training partners are Toronto Police officers who encouraged him not to give up on his dream of becoming a cop.
“They really supported me and that was what kept me going,” said De Nobrega, who has also worked in construction.
He expects his martial arts training will serve him well in his new law enforcement role.
“Having the confidence of knowing you can defend yourself gives you the time to assess a situation, talk to people and de-escalate situations,” said De Nobrega, assigned to 14 Division. “When you are well-trained in martial arts, things kind of slow down for you.”
Of the new recruits, 21 are women, making it the highest-ever percentage in one class in the history of the Service.
Jade McMurray and Jaime Loomans are excited to be part of the milestone achievement.
“I am just so thrilled to be part of this momentous occasion,” said McMurray, of both being in such a large group of female graduates and fulfilling her dream of working in Toronto, where she will be working in 51 Division, which includes the Cabbagetown and Regent Park neighbourhoods.
McMurray said she was inspired to become a constable while enrolled in the University of Ottawa’s criminology & psychology program.
“One of my professors was Vern White (the former Ottawa and Durham Chief who is now a Senator) and he was very inspiring,” she said. “He taught from a lived experience, so the knowledge he was passing on was practical in comparison to the old theoretical university jargon. He was extremely motivational and planted that seed in me to really consider policing as a career option.”
After graduating from university, McMurray – who volunteered with Elizabeth Fry Toronto and the probation and parole office in Ottawa – worked for four years with a downtown Toronto youth treatment centre.
“As a child and youth worker, I interacted with youth living with mental health and behavioural issues,” she said. “I learned a lot about talking to people without being judgmental and I think that will help me greatly in my new career.”
Loomans, who migrated with her family from South Korea as an infant, taught for five years with the York Catholic District School Board before making the transition to policing.
“Policing was not a childhood dream for me,” she admitted. “However, as time went by, I found that I wanted to make a difference without sitting for most of the time at a desk behind a computer.”
Some of her friends in policing gave her an idea of what to expect when it came to the rigorous training for recruits.
“Their advice was welcomed but I can tell you that nothing compares with the actual training and the entire experience, which was challenging, yet rewarding,” said Loomans, who has been assigned to 54 Division.
Over one-third of the class is made up of visible minorities.
A total of 93.2 per cent successfully completed post-secondary education and over 40 per cent have previous military or policing experience.