As a systems project manager with a private consulting firm, Constable Rahim Kassam was relatively happy and making good money.
Something, though, was missing.
“I was sitting at a desk, pushing paper,” he said. “I felt like a cog in a machine. In my opinion, I wasn’t really making a difference in the lives of people.”
When the firm restructured nine years ago, Kassam – an Ismaili Volunteer Corps member since age 12 and a martial arts instructor -- was out of a job.
“At the time, I asked myself in what areas I could really play a meaningful role and it always came back to helping people,” he said. “I really wanted to know what professional area I could incorporate that love of service and do it as a vocation. Time and time again, it came back to policing.”
To get a feel for the Toronto Police Service, Kassam served as an Auxiliary member at 53 Division for a few years.
“After that experience, there was no doubt in my mind that this was what I wanted to do,” said the Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and University of Toronto graduate.
Kassam, who was born in England before coming to Toronto just after his first birthday, was among 15 recruits presented with their badges on graduation day on September 29.
“I have done many things in my life and I have lots of interests, but the one thing that unifies everybody is the desire to help people,” he said of his fellow officers. “Becoming a police officer is a marriage of those things.”
Kassam will spend the first six months with a coach officer at 55 Division before moving to Traffic Services.
In welcoming the rookies to the fold, Chief Mark Saunders said they are ready to write a new chapter in a proud and honourable history of service to the people of Toronto.
“You have gotten to the finish line in this chapter and now you are going to be starting off the first day of the rest of your career and the chapters that lie ahead,” he told them. “Savour this moment, cherish this moment and always remember the sacrifices and dedication you had to put forward to earn this uniform. It is a moment from which you can draw inspiration and courage in the most challenging times in your professional career. It is a moment made more special because, today, you share it with the people who are most special in your lives.”
Saunders warned the recruits not to listen to some individuals who might tell them to forget what they were taught at the police college.
You belong to a generation of the best-trained police officers ever produced in this profession. You are amongst the best educated, you come from amazing diverse backgrounds, you possess cultural competencies, language skills, a good understanding of the law and knowledge of how to apply the law.
“They might tell you that you are out here in the real world and we do things differently,” he said. “Do not believe them. You belong to a generation of the best-trained police officers ever produced in this profession. You are amongst the best educated, you come from amazing diverse backgrounds, you possess cultural competencies, language skills, a good understanding of the law and knowledge of how to apply the law. These will be the keys to your success in making our communities safe.”
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle told the graduates they are joining an organization that’s renowned and respected internationally.
“And, you will soon find, it is most certainly a family,” he said. “You should feel honoured and privileged to stand among those who you now join.”
The class comprised 53 per cent women and 33 per cent visible monitories and 40 per cent speak a language other than English.
Pringle said that diversity will serve Toronto well.
“Your diversity is a mirror of our city,” he pointed out. “And in it lies our strength. The quality of our Service is strengthened when the diversity of our great city is reflected in those who police it. Through you, we can reach out to our different communities and neighbourhoods, speak to community members in their home languages, build and strengthen relationships and, thus, enhance our ever-important partnership with the public.”
The new uniformed members join the Service at a time when the organization is seeking to ensure it keeps pace with changing needs and expectations.
The Transformational Task Force has outlined a new model of policing, laid out in an interim report released on June 16, entitled The Way Forward: Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto.
The report contains 24 recommendations, some of which can be implemented right away, while others will be phased in.
“The start of your career happens as we usher in a new era of policing,” Pringle noted. “It’s an exciting time and it’s an important time. As our newest members, you will be part of this significant transformation and we welcome your contribution as to how we can serve the public most effectively and most efficiently, working alongside the community and being where they need us most.
“…Today, you begin your career as peace officers and gain an incredible opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact on our city. You gain the opportunity to make a personal contribution to the safety and well-being of the community that you have vowed to serve and protect.”
Superintendent Peter Lennox, the TPS College unit commander, provided the recruits with some words of wisdom.
He told them that their training and learning are not completed when they graduate.
“We are never finished,” said Lennox. “We have to spend our careers – three or four decades – keeping up-to-date with what is going on around us and with what the community expects of us…If we are going to think of ourselves as professionals and deliver a professional grade of service, we have to remain excellent at what we do – all the time. We have to be current in law, we need to be up-to-date on our authorities and we need to know the people in our community as well as the problems they face and the problem-solving resources they can offer. We then have to use that ongoing learning to be thoughtful about how we do our job as police officers and how we solve problems in the community.”
Lennox challenged the graduates to live their careers so they can hold their heads high, knowing that they are excellent.
“And, you can do it,” he added. “I promise. You can do it by providing the kind of policing the community has a right to expect, every day that you work. We are so proud of you. You have done well. Keep doing well and stay safe.”
Audrey Campbell, the Police & Community Engagement Review (PACER) co-chair, congratulated the recruits and reminded them that 21st century policing is about building trust, respecting people and partnering with the community they serve.
“Like any job you have ever had, you will know that there are pleasant days and not so pleasant days,” said the former Jamaican Canadian Association president. “Always remember that, in any situation, you are the paid professional and have a duty to exemplify that. Build and foster relationships in the community and gain the trust and respect of the people you serve. Do not indict entire communities based on the criminals that you will be exposed to. Like you will come to find, there are always bad apples, whether they be police officers or members of the community.
“You cannot let unpleasant interactions cloud your judgment. As a community representative, I want to reassure you that I have faith in you and I have confidence in the Toronto Police that you will receive the training that you need to carry out your new profession with dignity, honour and respect.”
Constable Nicole Mangos, a member of the Service for nine years, was the valedictorian.
The Markville Secondary School graduate, who is assigned to 55 Division where she was a custodial officer, thanked the training instructors on behalf of her colleagues for the high level of training they provided.
“All of you brought valuable knowledge to our learning and taught us to not only be the best, but to continuously work hard, stopping at nothing to make sure we exceeded all expectations,” said Mangos, who was also the recipient of the Harry Mayzel Leadership Award. “We thank you for pushing us to our limits to succeed and teaching us to never quit…This was an amazing and rewarding experience that I was able to accomplish alongside friends who I consider family.”
Constable Mario Ho was the recipient of the Diversity & Inclusion and the MTP Military Veterans Awards, Constable Erik Barbosa captured the Physical Training Most Improved Award and Constable Janet Bertrand won the Physical Training High Performance Award.
Constable Robert Brown received the highest academic mark – 97 per cent.
“This experience has been truly rewarding, challenging and trying at times,” he said. “It’s a dream come true and I am glad I had my fellow classmates with me along the way.”
The other graduates were Constables Jason Boag, Olena Byelova, Cody Cole, Louis Hastick, Therese Irving-Peckham, Calia Khan, Sarah Matthews, Elena McGuigan and Katrina Shipley.