Had it not being for the keen nose of a police dog, a suicide attempt might have been deadly.
Constable John Massey, and canine partner Jetta, were wrapping up a night shift on September 15, 2015, when a call came through that a man might have jumped off a bridge in 54 Division.
“The Division is in the same territory as our Dog Services Unit, so I had the channel on and that’s how I learned about the incident,” said Massey, who joined the Service 16 years ago and served at 42 and 43 Divisions before being assigned to Police Dog Services in 2009. “I hopped on the call with Jetta.”
Irene Callaghan was on her way to work stumbled upon an abandoned backpack with a suicide note inside it and called police.
Less than five minutes after arriving at the scene, Jetta found the injured man below the bridge.
“He was in the water and about 50 feet south of the bridge,” said Massey. “The current had taken him downstream and he was in really rough shape, despite being conscious. He would have certainly succumbed to his injuries if he was in there much longer.”
Massey, who entered the cold water with Constable Adrian Elliott to assess the man’s injuries, along with Constable Shaun Roy who lit the area with his flashlight, were presented with Teamwork Commendations at police headquarters on April 5.
Jetta, the Service’s first female general purpose dog, was awarded a Letter of Recognition. The German shepherd joined the Service seven years ago.
“This is a big deal for her,” said Massey, who also works with Ellis, a German shepherd specially trained to detect explosives. “She is one of our highest-producing canines.”
A total of 133 Service and eight community members were recognized for unselfish acts of bravery, courage, professionalism, investigative excellence and teamwork.
“These are just small examples of the many significant acts performed every day by members of this Service to make this city of Toronto the best and safest place to be,” said Superintendent Cory Bockus.
The awardees included a group that helped save the life of a senior police officer who went into a medical stress while conducting a meeting in his office at police headquarters.
July 22, 2015 started out like any normal work day for Staff Superintendent Mario Di Tommaso, in charge of Central Field, and his administrative assistant Neena Sharifabadi.
“He came in, had his coffee and went over some stuff before starting his morning meeting at 8.30,” she recounted. “At nine o’clock, he started another meeting with Audit & Quality Assurance. I was outside the office and, suddenly, his door, which was closed for the meetings, opened and Staff Superintendent Tom Russell asked me to call 9-1-1.
“Just after I make the call, I turned my head and saw my boss lying on the floor. He seemed to be not in good shape and I was on the phone with the Communications Operator who was asking me a series of questions. This was the first time I had ever called 9-1-1. I was in shock as they kept asking me for further updates as to how he was doing. All I remember telling them was to get someone here quickly.”
Sharifabadi estimates it took less than five minutes for paramedics to arrive.
“To me, however, it seemed like an eternity,” she added.
Detective Sergeant Paul Rinkoff, Detective Richard Baker, Sergeant Darren Sisk and Constable James Fleming took turns delivering CPR, while Constable Stephen Hammond was preparing to activate a defibrillator when paramedics Cameron Edmonds, May Klaehn, Michael Larsen and William Smith arrived on the scene and relieved the officers.
It was determined, after extensive tests, that Di Tommaso had experienced a type of rapid onset cardiac arrest which is likely fatal if first aid is not administered immediately.
He returned to work last month.
The day before he fell ill, Di Tommaso had his annual medical check-up.
“When he came in, I asked him how everything went and he said all was well and he has a strong heart,” Sharifabadi recalled. “Then the next moment, he’s in distress.”
Sharifabadi, Rinkoff, Sisk, Baker, Fleming and Hammond were awarded Teamwork Commendations while the paramedics received Community Member Awards.
Acting Chief Mike Federico said the celebration represents everything that makes Toronto Police noble and the best public servant it can be.
“These stories you will hear illustrate just what we are capable of doing, but we would not be capable of doing that without the support of you, the family members,’” he said. “So you, too, are contributing to public safety and should quite genuinely and sincerely share in the triumph of your family members. We are extremely proud of your support.”
Councillor Chin Lee, the vice-chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said the awardees deserve praise and recognition for their selfless acts of bravery and excellence.
“For our board, it is important to recognize individuals such as those we are celebrating today, whose dedication and heroism make our city a better place,” he said. “The uniformed members of the Service we are honouring this evening far exceeded their already demanding day-to-day activities. They are living examples of our Service’s core values, doing their jobs in the neighbourhoods across Toronto. They embody these core values in all they do.”
He added that the civilian members who were honoured provide the board with many reasons to be proud.
“Their actions inspire each of us to strive for heights of professionalism and service to the community,” Lee said.