Superintendent Peter Lennox saw the importance of the work of Toronto Police Auxiliaries as a new constable three decades ago as a new constable and has continued to see their value as a senior officer.
“It was a dark and rainy night and me and my partner, Victoria Lawson, were out on patrol when the lights went out at a nearby retirement home due to the very bad weather,” he recalled, of the mid-80s incident. “Fearing that a fire might start, the two of us, with assistance from emergency responders brought the most severely disabled folks, who were on the seventh and eighth floors, by stairs to the ground floor. They were uncomfortable and terrified. I will never forget the arrival of the Auxiliary Police Canteen vehicle bringing coffee and sweets. What they also brought was comfort and love that those folks needed at that time.”
The Auxiliary program was established in 1956 in the aftermath of Hurricane Haze and was celebrated at for 60 years of volunteer service to the city from assisting with major events such as papal visits and parades to helping in times of crisis with searches for missing people or day-to-day activities such as educating store owners about crime prevention.
When Lennox was the unit commander at 11 Division, Lennox recalled Auxiliary officers being annoyed that he would not call them out in the middle of the night to help police officers.
“The Toronto Police Auxiliary program is just about the most impressive element in this town,” he said, at the 60th anniversary celebration at the Toronto Police College Oct. 27.
His first memory of their work was during the Mississauga trail derailment in 1979.
“There is a picture of an Auxiliary officer in a gas mask directing traffic that’s indelibly imprinted in my mind and I will never forget it,” said Lennox.
Auxiliary Superintendent Duncan Walker was one of the many officers deployed to help manage the evacuation of 200,000 people after a freight train carrying explosive and poisonous chemicals jumped the tracks near Mavis Rd. and Dundas St.
“I helped to patrol the streets for two days, ensuring that all the citizens were out of the area,” said the 44-year Auxiliary veteran. “It was a strange sight because nobody was on the road. The only thing you occasionally saw was a roaming dog.”
Walker, a York University grad, had joined the Auxiliary because he wanted to don the uniform to help people but was unable to join the Service because he wore glasses.
Starting with 5 District, he rose to the rank of Superintendent and is still active with the Divisional Policing Support Unit (DPSU). He worked with the Royal Bank for 33 years before retiring as a senior manager.
“I have enjoyed every moment of the 44 years I have been a member,” said Walker, who was introduced to the program by a friend who was a member of the then Metropolitan Toronto Police Force. “I have worked at the Royal Winter Fair, the G-20 Summit, last year’s Panam/Parapan Games and details involving members of the Royal Family visiting Toronto.”
Mark Donnie joined the Auxiliary program in 1984 because he was looking for a volunteer opportunity and he loved boats. His dream came true when he was assigned to the Marine Unit.
“I have always been fascinated with boats, so to get to work with them and give back to the community are what has made my stint with the program so exciting and rewarding,” he said.
Last year, Donnie joined Toronto Police Service Unit Marine members who took a British visitor to lay a wreath at the site where the Nimrod crashed in September 1995.
The British-made aircraft was performing a routine fly-past during the Toronto Air Show when it crashed into Lake Ontario, killing all seven British crew members.
Ed Hayward is the Auxiliary’s longest serving member, having joined in May 1959.
A member of the Retired Auxiliary Officers program started a few years ago, he has one of the most unique police patrols in the city.
The police volunteer is often found behind the wheel of the Service’s bright-yellow 1957 Chevrolet displayed at community events. It is the same car that was being driven by police officers when he joined the Service as an auxiliary officer 57 years ago.
Three years ago, he was the recipient of the inaugural William Blair Award, created by the DPSU to honour an Auxiliary member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to community service.
A neighbour assigned to Central Traffic introduced Hayward, who was in the printing business at the time, to the Service. He completed 29 years in the motorcycle unit and started the Marine Unit Auxiliary section where he spent 11 years.
Acting Deputy Chief Rick Stubbings thanked the Auxiliary members for their contributions to the Service and the city.
“This program is an important component of the Toronto Police Service and its members have been a valued resource, serving alongside our regular police officers at community events, delivering crime prevention initiatives and enhancing the safety and security of the public at hundreds of large-scale parades and festivals and in major emergency situations.
“…For a police service which must keep peace and order, regrettably sometimes with the use of force, you cannot buy the goodwill and community connectedness that volunteers can bring. Literally, you can’t buy those things because people who are not being paid to work with and support their community have a credibility and authenticity that can foster understanding and trust, build bridges and bridge the chasm between the police and those who may sometimes feel that those laws are unfairly or inequitably enforced.”
“What you do is public service and it enriches the lives of our community,” said Acting Superintendent Dave Rydzik, the DPSU unit commander. “You all bring great skills and talent that help make our organization the very best. I have the utmost respect for the work that you do.”
Last year, 360 Auxiliaries volunteered 80,000 hours, assisting in community mobilization initiatives, crime prevention programs, special events, parades, searches for missing persons and emergency call-outs.
During last summer’s Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, Auxiliary officers – working 24-hour shifts – undertook 836 assignments and contributed approximately 8,370 volunteer hours
In addition to Hayward, other Retired Auxiliary members recognized for long service were Francis Goodwin, Bob Clements who joined in November 1963 and Hubert Weitz who was enlisted in October 1961 just nine years after migrating from Germany.
“I came to this country with nothing and, in a short time, I was able to buy a house, cottage and car,” he said. “Canada gave me a lot and I was looking for an opportunity to give back to the country that gave me so much.”
Superintendent Frank Fernandes, Inspector Donald Rusk, Staff Sergeants Rosemary Nash, Tim Maiola and Larry Chong-Eng and Constables Zahir Damani and Clare Holmes were also honoured for long service ranging between 31 and 40 years.