Pulling Man Back from Edge

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 3:10 p.m. April 11, 2017

A Communications Operator was recognized for helping pull a man from the brink of despair – all from the other end of a phone line.

A man with headphones seated at a desk
Communications Operator Shawn Mascarenhas

Communications Operators are a vital link between citizens needing urgent assistance and police, fire and medical personnel responding to calls for service. They are required to learn how to ask pertinent questions, give sound advice and process calls relating to a range of offences and incidents.

Nearly a year ago, Shawn Mascarenhas brought theses skills to bear and, in the process, saved the life of a man who was in crisis.

“The man was crying and in obvious distress and it took a while before I could understand what was happening,” he recalled.

Saddled with family and financial issues, the distraught man was sitting on a rooftop, contemplating ending his life.

“I built a relationship with him and calmed him down before emergency services personnel arrived,” said Mascarenhas. “Before the call ended, he thanked me and said he was glad that he got me at the other end of the line.”

On April 11, the Toronto Police Communications Operator was rewarded with the Service’s Communicator of the Year Award alongside recipients from Toronto Paramedic and Fire Services.

“While I am privileged and humbled to be the recipient of this prestigious honour, this recognition is really a reflection of the people I work with – co-workers, supervisors, police officers on the road and our EMS partners,” he said.

Shawn Mascarenhas named 2017 Toronto Police Service Communications Operator of the Year

Glen Sone, an operations supervisor at Communications, said Mascarenhas deserves the accolade.

“He has been involved in a few major events in the past 12 months and he has handled them very professionally and efficiently,” said Sone. “Shawn is friendly, helpful and a team player.”

Staffed by 231 operators, Communications Services received 1.8 million calls last year, with just under a million dialed as 9-1-1 calls.

Mascarenhas joined the Service six years ago, after graduating with a university degree in health studies & psychology.

He said a career in policing was always on his radar.

“Becoming a uniformed officer was on my mind, but I needed laser corrective surgery and I was scared to do that,” he said. “The next best thing was communications because I felt I could also help people in that role. I have an opportunity to make a difference when people are at the lowest points of their lives and need a helping hand. That’s very rewarding.”

Mascarenhas said his father and uncle have been very inspirational in his life.

“My dad underwent heart surgery a few months ago and has rebounded well,” he said. “He’s a fighter and I have learned a lot from him about never giving up without a fight.”

His uncle is a New York Police Department officer.

“I listened to the stories he told me of the work he does and that motivated me to apply to Toronto Police Service,” said the India-born Mascarenhas, who came to live in Canada two decades ago.

Toronto Paramedic Services Chief Gord McEachen, Toronto Police Service Deputy Chief Richard Stubbings and Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Anthony Bavota announced the winners of the City’s annual Telecommunicator of the Year Awards.

This ceremony takes place every April and recognizes the outstanding work of the emergency telecommunicators in each of the services and specifically recognizes one person or team from each service for exemplary community service in the past year.

“The Telecommunicators and Emergency Medical Dispatchers being recognized today are the frontline of Toronto’s first responders," said Chief McEachen. "They are the calm voice at the end of the telephone line providing critical instructions to a caller and contribute daily to saving lives in our City.”

The recipients:

  • Toronto Paramedic Services – Rory Donoghue, an emergency medical dispatcher for 11 years, recognized for his incredibly calm and reassuring tone when speaking to callers
  • Toronto Police Service – Shawn Mascarenhas, recognized for his professionalism as a dispatcher during a high-risk call
  • Toronto Fire Services – Dale Henry, designated to accept the award on behalf of the entire Shift 1 team
A group of people standing together
Communications Services Manager Dion Evelyn, Operational Support Services Director Kristine Kijweski, Communications Operator Shawn Mascarenhas and Acting Deputy Chief Rick Stubbings
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