For any law enforcement officer contemplating peacekeeping duties deployment, retired Toronto Police Service (TPS) Inspector Paul Vorvis has some advice.
“I would encourage you to get a solid 10 to 12 years policing under your belt before you consider making that move,” he said, at the Service’s Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal ceremony on February 15 at police headquarters. “That time allows you to take those skills and experiences and pass them on with authority. When you speak, you know what you are speaking about because you have been there and done that.”
Retired since 2011 after 35 years on the job, Vorvis served two tours in Afghanistan.
For a 10 -month period up until August, he was a mentor/adviser to the Afghan National Police (ANP) and the Ministry of the Interior and head of the unit responsible for strategic development and training of ANP officers in all areas related to organizational reform, leadership development and command control functions.
From November 2011 to October 2012, he was the head of the field implementation office.
“The second stint was interesting in that I held a rank similar to Senior Superintendent or Deputy,” Vorvis pointed out. “I managed a unit in Kabul that was responsible for implementing the European Union Police strategy in 10 satellite locations across Afghanistan, with about 100 multi-national staff. I had a Beechcraft Model 16 at my disposal and I was able to travel and see much of the country.”
Vorvis visited the site of the famous Buddha statues in Bamiyan that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
“I was able to walk through the rubble,” he said. “It was still a war zone and we had a special escort for our safety.”
Vorvis was among nine TPS officers – past and present – who were awarded Canadian Peacekeeper Service Medals at the ceremony.
Other recipients were D/Sgt. Reginald Pitts who is also retired, Inspector Tim Crone, Sergeants Nicole Bailey and Phillip Sinclair, Detective Jodi Mitchell and Constables Gregory Boltyansky, Marie-Josee Fournier and William Vollmar.
Constable Jason Tomlinson, who was attached to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his deployment, was presented with the Canadian government Operational Service Medal, while Sergeant Kevin Kaposy, who was attached to the Canadian Training Mission in Ukraine, and Constable Guy Kama, who served in Haiti, were recipients of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) International Peace Operations Commemorative Coin.
Staff Sergeant Grant Burningham, who served in Afghanistan from November 2012 to December 2013, was awarded an additional rotation bar to the Operation Service Medal for serving over 390 days in mission.
Retired Staff Superintendent and World War II veteran Jack Reid, who -- as a Toronto Police Military Veterans Association (TPMVA) volunteer for over 30 years -- was instrumental in changing the organization’s charter, offering membership to all ranks of the Service who have served domestically or internationally, was presented with the Sovereigns Medal for Volunteers.
TPS Chief Mark Saunders was made an honourary TPMVA life member and presented with a golf Chief coin.
“I have had the opportunity to spend a week in Afghanistan, observing our members in action and getting a feel for what they do in that theatre,” he said. “I was very impressed.”
He thanked the members for their commitment and their families for allowing them to serve overseas.
In 1999, the TPS partnered with the RCMP International Police Peace Operations program, deploying the first officer, Sergeant Paul Allen, who served in Bosnia. Since that time, 100 officers have been deployed on peace operations around the world, including East Timor, Kosovo, Jordan, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ukraine and Iraq.
“The very essence of these deployments is the promotion of peace in troubled nations by training and increasing the capacity of the local police,” said Sgt. John Lo Bianco, whowas attached to the International Policing Co-ordinating Board in Kabul during his stint in 2012-13. “To carry out these duties, deployed officers are often exposed to austere conditions and challenges that could only be imagined. They include terrorist attacks and lack of running water and basic medical care.”
The Service’s International Police Peace Operations co-ordinator, John Lo Bianco, said deployed officers bring back a wealth of knowledge and global policing experience they share with their colleagues.
“They return, having been exposed to diverse cultures and with a deeper appreciation for what Canadian society has to offer,” he added. “The experience they bring back to the Toronto Police Service is invaluable.”