An officer who pulled a child from a burning apartment was named Officer of the Year by the Toronto Region Board of Trade at the 49th annual celebration on May 31.
“There was thick black smoke everywhere. I couldn't see a thing,” said Constable Zoran Ivkovic, of having to crawl through the hallway of the Lakeshore apartment building in search of a boy trapped inside.
He managed to find the right apartment and pushed the unlocked door open. Ahead to his left, he saw flames getting higher and, to his right, a hall.
“I took a few steps inside and heard a low moan,” recalls Ivkovic. Using his flashlight, he turned to his right and saw a child slumped against the wall of the hallway. The child’s skin was burned but he was alive.
“I just grabbed him and pulled him close to me,” said the officer, who crawled his way out of the apartment but kept yelling in case there were survivors inside.
Anyone else in the apartment, walk towards my voice.
On the other side, he heard some voices call back.
“They were saying ‘walk towards us.’” Ivkovic thought it must have been the firefighters on the balcony.
“Okay, the apartment must be clear,” thought Ivkovic, assured by the voices as he picked up the child and began crawling out.
“The kid wasn’t in good shape. He needed to get medical attention right away,” said the officer.
Ivkovic was honoured for putting his life in danger to carry the boy to safety and paramedics.
“It's a great honour. If I had my way, I would share this award with the men and women of the Toronto Police Service,” said Ivkovic, noting the other officers on the scene that day and the work done across the Service each day.
It’s just part of my job. I’m not going to hesitate when someone is in danger, and I’m going to do whatever I can. I have a child and I would hope someone would do the same for my kid if something like that happened.
Chief Mark Saunders thanked the Toronto Region Board of Trade for recognizing the work of officers.
“Each and every day, our men and women on the streets are doing brave, heroic compassionate things to make a positive difference across the city,” he said. “We have so many officers deserving so many awards. This is one of those moments where lives were saved a direct result of their actions.”
The Board of Trade has supported the awards for the last 49 years.
“This is a time when we take a moment to call to your minds what these officers have done and continue to do to make the best city to call home,” said the Police Officer of the Year Committee chair Chris Worth. “…I see members of the Toronto Police Service going about their jobs and it encourages me to know that they, more importantly you our nominees, are working hard for us every day.
“This is my annual reality check. For the past 16 years, this is the day I get to look back and reflect on how lucky I am to live in this amazing city, to be able to raise my family here, to build my business here and to know that we are all safe under the protection of all of the members of the Toronto Police Service. To you, I can’t say thank-you enough.”
The Officer(s) of the Year is selected by a panel of reporters in the city.
The celebration was launched as a centennial project by Doug Lewis, who went on to become the province’s attorney general.
“I think this legacy is an unbelievable one,” added Worth.
Angie Seth of Global Toronto’s News Hour was the Master of Ceremonies.
Police Officers of the Month:
Sergeant Sean Cosgrove intervened when a man began threatening others on a bus and goaded the officer to shoot him.
The 33 Division sergeant de-escalated the situation despite being unsure if the man had a weapon and threatened that he had explosives. Cosgrove was able to isolate and arrest the man, while a TTC bus operator evacuated the area because of the explosives threat.
Detective Constable Wayne Howell helped the Lethbridge Police Service track down a man accused of extortion, child-luring and child pornography with 17 different victims across Canada.
Howell utilized his expertise in technology to investigate the suspect, analyzing photographs provided to him and through searches through social media. He was able to match the logo on the suspect’s shirt to one he found through a search on Facebook and discovered three photographs of a man in Florida whom he believed matched the suspect’s description.
Constable Zoran Ivkovic rushed into a burning apartment building, rescuing a child from a blaze.
Constable Jason Land put his own life in danger when he pulled a suicidal man back from the brink on April 16, 2015. He was one of the first officers on the scene to the call for a man threatening suicide. When he called out to the man, he immediately headed towards the edge and climbed the barrier. Land was able to sprint to him and pull the man back who began to fall towards the Don Valley Parkway below.
Constable Colm McLaughlin was confronted at the front desk of 55 Division by a man behaving erratically who pulled a six-inch knife out. Station Duty Operator Kish Patel called for assistance over the intercom as McLaughlin spoke to the man.
Court Officer Navin Deoraj and Constable Timothy Chadwick immediately attended the front area of the station and took physical control of the man, placing him under arrest without further incident. The man told officers he was suicidal and wanted to be shot. They found two additional knives on him.
While on patrol, Constable Gurinder Puar noticed a man he recognized from a recently posted police bulletin on recent thefts. He saw the man follow a person into a bank ATM vestibule covering his face with a bandana. Puar immediately followed him and placed him under arrest after a struggle inside the vestibule, where a knife fell from the man’s pocket. He is alleged to have threatened the person with a knife if he didn’t hand over any money.
Emergency Task Force Constable Quoc Nguyen was off-duty at a park with his wife and child when he noticed a man climb onto playground equipment and tie a belt to a railing system and his own throat.
Nguyen and another man rushed to intervene but were threatened with a knife by the man. Both men were able to take control of the man and hold him for emergency responders.
Constable Davinder Pathak was working outside a nightclub in the early morning of August 4, 2014 when he heard gunshots. He then saw a man running with his arm extended, shooting at an unknown target. Constable Pathak chased the man and caught him a short distance away, where the suspect threw the handgun to the ground in the struggle.
Pathak and other officers began first aid on the man whom they discovered had been shot in the chest. He survived the wound and faces 10 firearms offences.
Constable Zachary Melerowicz was off-duty when he noticed a group of men acting suspiciously, running from a store and concealing what he thought was a firearm in September 2015.
He noted their licence plate and descriptions and relayed the information to on-duty officers.
It is alleged that the men were involved in four armed robberies that day where they ordered employees to the ground as they stole money. Melerowicz’s information led officers to arrest three men that same day.
Financial Crimes Detective Philip Chung and Constable Belinda Vandervoort began a complex and lengthy investigation after a bank reported, in 2014, a loss of over $1 million through fraud.
The investigators were left only with phone numbers and internet protocol addresses to find the people alleged to have taken over financial profiles to obtain credit.
Production orders, surveillance and search warrants led officers to nexus of evidence that had to be condensed and explained in court.
Three people were tied to $3.5 million in fraud.
Constable Marc Van Ruyven, of 14 Division, faced down a man with a knife after being alerted to a stabbing at a nightclub in November 2014. He had pulled someone over when a security guard advised him someone had been stabbed.
Once on scene, he found a man concealing something in his hand under clothes who refused to show him what he was holding. Van Ruyven was able to pull the clothes from the man, revealing a bloody knife. When he failed to drop the knife at the officer’s request, he was to gain control of the knife and arrest the man.
Constable Pietro Grande responded to a man threatening suicide as he hung from a branch 30 feet in the air in December 2015. Grande spoke to the man and bought time by providing him with a coffee and a cigarette using a Toronto Fire Services ladder to get the items to the man.
He stayed in the air for 30 minutes in sub-zero temperatures until he was able to convince the man to come down from the tree and be admitted to hospital.