Just before Claudio Ceolin retired from the Service in 2011, he recommended Constable Eric Berridge to succeed him as the 11 Division community liaison officer.
It was a very noble act, but what stood out for Berridge was what he told him.
“He said this was going to be the most rewarding job I have had as a police officer and he was right,” said Berridge who was presented with the Chief of Police Excellence Award on September 28 at police headquarters.
He spearheaded hundreds of bike rodeos, road safety sessions and class presentations on street proofing and cyber bullying, crafted creative and innovative programs that have positively changed the lives of a generation of school children, managed several Pro Action programs, including Cops & Kids computer skill workshops, hockey and baseball tournaments, Music Not Mischief and the Spelling Bee tournament.
Berridge also coached several local and community baseball hockey teams on his own time.
“Working with young people in the community has been most fulfilling and gratifying,” he said. “Even though I am retired, I still work in the Division as a volunteer coach with the Toronto Eagles Minor Pee Wee team that plays in an arena in the division.”
Carleton Village Public School was one of the 30 public and private elementary schools that Berridge was assigned to.
“He was an integral part of our school,” said Lorelei Eccleston, the school’s principal. “He worked behind the scenes to bring our students unique opportunities that they really embraced. He not only organized bike rodeos but he ensured that every student got a bike and he partnered with Canadian Tire to offer our students the chance to be engaged in dragon boating. He was simply beloved by staff and every student and he fully deserves any recognition that comes his way. I am so happy for Officer Eric.”
Superintendent Heinz Kuck witnessed the high esteem in which Berridge was held.
“When I went to some of his presentations at schools, he was swarmed by the kids,” said Kuck. “Often times, the very first interaction a lot of young Toronto kids have with police is in their schools. It’s not on the street or at their homes. That creates a really critical first impression narrative. He did that in a way to garner trust, respect and a real sense of contribution. He was just an unstoppable force when it came to giving of himself to the schools to which he was assigned.”
Berridge retired on July 31, after 29 years with the Service.
Except for three months doing field training at 52 Division, all of this time was spent at 11 Division.
Chief of Police Excellence Awards were also presented to 33 Division Auxiliary Constable Kurtis Bradshaw and 41 Division Constables Shaun Hughes and Benjamin Wester.
Last December, Bradshaw – who was off duty – and his wife were dining at a restaurant when he noticed a young boy choking on a piece of candy. With the boy turning blue and unable to breathe, Bradshaw administered first-aid and successfully dislodged the candy from the boy’s throat.
Kayla Rowe and her son, Graysen Rowe, who turns four on October 2, attended the awards ceremony.
“Kurt is our hero and we had to be here,” said the mother. “We are so very grateful for what he did.”
Bradshaw said he heard a commotion behind the table where he and his wife were dining.
“There was screaming and I heard someone say, ‘My son is choking’,” recalled Bradshaw who has been an Auxiliary officer for the last six-and-a-half years. “When I turned around to see what was going on, everyone else was just sitting around, so I went over andadministered an abdominal thrust – also known as the Heimlich manoeuvre – to dislodge the candy. It worked and here he is today. This is the third time I have had to use this manoeuvre and it’s a good thing I have been trained to do it.”
On November 22, 2016, Hughes and Wester rescued a suicidal woman and took her to hospital to get the care she required. With the holiday season approaching, they collected money from colleagues and local businesses. They also bought a gift for the woman to present to her son on Christmas Day and later delivered the money and food they had collected.
The second annual Robert Qualtrough Memorial Award was presented to Staff Sergeant Warren Wilson, Detective Stacie Branton and Constables William Boag, Jason Larmer and Jennifer Metzger of 55 Division, Mounted Unit Officer Stacey Jennings and community members Joanne Cameron and Paula Del Cid.
They are part of the Victims Services Unit launched in 55 Division in March 2014.
Officers in the unit provide support, referrals, and information to victims, witnesses and their families. As a result of these contacts and the knowledge gained, the officers are able to efficiently refer victims to the services and the support they require. The unit also works with victims to provide safety planning when necessary in order to improve their confidence and feeling of security.
In June 2016, the Ontario Association Chiefs of Police recognized the unit with the Victims Assistance Committee Award.
Qualtrough, who served with distinction and honour during his 34 years with the Service, died in October 2014.
The award recognizes community and Service members for excellence and leadership in an innovative and effective police-community partnership.
Deputy Chief James Ramer represented Chief Mark Saunders at the ceremony.
He said the officers and members of the community deserve the accolades for their outstanding investigative work, acts of bravery and profound contribution to public safety.
“All of you have not only carried out your duties with great professionalism and dedication, but each of you has performed above and beyond the call of duty,” he said. “Policing is a demanding, arduous and, at times, thankless profession. However, I am here to tell you your efforts are very much appreciated. We understand the dangers that you face on a daily basis and the risks that are in it. We are truly grateful to you for keeping the citizens of Toronto safe. This is in keeping with the modernization of the Service and how we conduct business and serving and keeping the city safe.”
Toronto Police Services Board vice-chair Chin Lee said the awardees’ dedication and heroism make Toronto a better place to live, work and play.
“The uniformed members of the Service we are honouring this evening far exceeded their demanding daily activities,” he said. “They are living examples of the Service’s core values. Doing their jobs in neighbourhoods across Toronto, they embody these core values in all that they do. They exemplify excellence in policing.”
Lee said the civilian members should also be proud of the recognition.
“Their actions should inspire each one of us to strive for new heights of professionalism and service to the community,” he added.