Positive interactions with police officers led the 11 new Toronto Police constables to take the oath themselves to serve and protect.
Just ask Matthew Fenty, among the recruits who received their badges on June 2.
As a young boy going to the Canadian National Exhibition, he remembers taking photos and having good conversations with officers.
“They were very professional and friendly,” he recalls. “Those positive interactions influenced me and I looked up to them as role models.”
Those constructive exchanges planted a seed in Fenty’s mind.
“The flashing lights and sirens of police cars were also appealing and, when I got to Francis Liebermann Catholic High School, I would often see new police recruits training in the adjoining Charles Bick College, next to our school,” he said. “By that time, I really knew what I wanted to pursue as a career.”
Armed with a Business Administration diploma from Seneca College and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Ryerson University, Fenty was a human resources adviser with the provincial government and a Canada Border Services Agency officer for two years.
“Those were great jobs,” he said. “But, when you have a dream, you are never satisfied until you attain that goal. For me, policing was always the end goal. I had good jobs, but I didn’t have the job satisfaction I wanted. I knew I wouldn’t get it in any other career except this one.”
Fenty, who was unsuccessful in his first application nine years ago, said there are some transferable skills between those taught at the Ontario Police College (OPC) and the 18-week in-residence training Border Service officers receive at the CBSA College in Rigaud, Quebec.
“While intense, the training was fun and I enjoyed it.”
In becoming just the fourth person of Somali heritage to join the Service, Mohamed Yusuf Mohamed is aware the Service has had challenges recruiting members of his community.
He hopes to change that now he’s a uniformed officer.
“Many members of my community were exposed to the civil war back home and are still scarred by those unsavoury events,” said Mohamed, who migrated from Somalia 15 years ago and lived in Ottawa before relocating to the Greater Toronto Area. “Seeing someone in a uniform is still a traumatizing experience for them and we have to get over that and show that the police are their friends and want to collaborate with them to make the community safer.”
While playing basketball at a Boys and Girls Club in the GTA, Mohamed was introduced to a police officer who was one of the coaches.
“He was very friendly and helpful,” he recounted. “That was when I knew I wanted to be a police officer and gave back in a meaningful way to the community.”
Mohamed has been assigned to 23 Division where there’s a large Somali population.
“I know a lot of people in my community who have applied to be police officers and were unsuccessful,” he said. “I hope I can change that and help to prepare them.”
Krista Paolini always held policing as her goal.
“I like variety and working with people, which policing offers,” she said. “While growing up, I played ‘cops and robbers’ with my cousins and I was always the cop. It was something I always wanted to do and I am so happy I am getting that opportunity.”
Prior to joining the Service, Paolini was a security officer with GO Transit and McMaster University.
Michael Sirpal was turned on to policing while enrolled in York University’s Business Management degree program.
“I knew that getting that degree would give me an edge in the competitive process as would a stint doing customer service, which policing is all about,” he said.
The product of immigrants from India, Sirpal spent three years with a bank as a customer service representative.
“Basically, I was sitting at a desk completing mortgages and lines of credits,” he said. “Policing is challenging and you have something different to do every day.”
Sirpal is following in the footsteps of his cousin, John Sirpal, who is assigned to 23 Division.
“He was extremely helpful in getting me prepared to go through the process,” said Sirpal. “He gave me an insight into some things I should expect on the job that I might not have otherwise been privy to.”
Sirpal’s grandfather, Mohan Lal Verma, a retired Indian military officer, presented his nephew with his badge on graduation day.
Ashley Wocks was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) civilian for nine years.
She had the opportunity to work in London, Newmarket, Milton, Barrie and, even, Regina, Saskatchewan.
“It was nice working in different locations,” she said. ‘But ever since I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to be a police officer.
Christina Krumins had the same aspirations.
“As a little girl, I can remember telling myself I wanted to be a police officer,” she said. “Now here I am about to fulfil my dream. I am definitely excited and just can’t wait to get on the road.”
Krumins spent the last six years doing security work at Scarborough Town Centre.
Andrew Plain is the first in his family to pursue policing.
“It’s a very unique career and great opportunity to work with people,” noted the Brock University graduate and gas technician.
While coaching football a few years ago, Brandon Gordon enjoyed the interaction with young people.
“I figured if I could have such an impact as a coach, imagine what I could do as a police officer, helping others,” said the former hospital security officer. “That was my inspiration to jump into this career and I am happy I did.”
David Franczak relished his last job, working with the city’s Parks & Recreation department in the west end.
“I worked with a lot of newcomers to Canada in helping to create a safe environment for them,” he said. “I really love working with people and policing offers me a larger platform to do that.”