Members of the public got an up-close look at what challenges police officers face, on a daily basis, through the eight-week Community Police Academy program.
Julian Kroutinsky was the only one of the 24 graduates to have experienced a similar program offered by Toronto Police ten years ago.
“Back then, you just sat in a classroom setting and listened to an officer lecture,” said Kroutinsky, a support worker who assists people with developmental disabilities. “This time around, it was more detail-oriented and hands-on. The scenario training was very engaging and I really enjoyed that.”
Being part of the Academy reinforced Brian Khotsiphom’s desire to be a police officer.
“It is a great way for the police to connect with the community,” said the University of Toronto Health Sciences graduate, a registration clerk at Scarborough General Hospital. “I was expecting lectures and class work, but I got more than that in terms of real-life scenarios that we were exposed to.”
During the inaugural fall program that began on October 22, participants learned about Canada’s largest municipal police service and the criminal justice system, engaged in use-of-force training and scenario-based training and toured the Mounted Unit and Police Dog Services.
“I hope you have a better understanding of our actions, though they may seem simple on the outside,” Chief Mark Saunders told the graduates. “If we are going to represent value in the community, we have to constantly listen to the community, understand what their needs are and what roles police need to play as the community changes each and every day. The most important factor is that we have to listen to everybody.”
Graduates are empowered to have an impact on community safety in their own neighbourhoods and act as ambassadors for the Service.
“I felt the academy, at the end of the day, would be a fantastic opportunity for you to really become knowledgeable,” Saunders said. “Knowledge is power and when you have knowledge in this particular industry, it gives you a better opportunity to challenge what you see in the media and have a much better and stronger factual account of the circumstances that you are going to be dealing with for a long time.”
Staff Superintendent Peter Yuen was tasked with the responsibility of renewing the program that’s run in conjunction with Humber College – who offer graduates credits towards a Community Policing Certificate.
“You are now ambassadors for our Service,” he said. “Take what you have learned and be impartial and fair.”
The valedictorians were Zachary Mitchell, Sarah Miller and Faiza Zulfiqar.
Miller said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she entered the program.
“I knew a credit was going to be offered at Humber College for their Community Policing program if you graduated from this academy,” she said. “I have already done the program at Humber, so I wanted to compare the two and see what this curriculum was going to be like.
“Humber College gives you more of an overview of policing in Canada while this program deals with community policing and, more specifically, Toronto Police. It was not exclusively about community policing and that exceeded my expectations.”
An administrative assistant at a security firm, Miller hopes to become a 9-1-1 Communications Operator.
Zulfiqar, who started a full-time job on December 12 as an alumni coordinator at the University of Guelph-Humber, where she graduated, holds the academy program in very high esteem.
“I thought you would sit in a classroom and just listen to officers speaking,” she said. “The real-life scenarios made it very engaging and practical. I really didn’t expect the program to be this good.”
The other graduates were Renee Bell, Samson Chan, Sophia Chen, Cindy Lok-Yee Chor, Jimmy Demille, Ilana Gorban, Steven Kovacs, Shannon Leclair, Jonathan Matti, Oubah Omar, Theodore Papadatos, Mohammed Pathan, David Plevoets, Jonathan Rozenblit, Margaret Shannon, Mark Tenaglia, Tsering Thonsur, Douglas Watt and Abdiaziz Youssouf.
The next class will be recruited in March.