Residents of the city got an eye-opening experience and the ability to walk in a police officer’s shoes through the Community Police Academy recently.
The Toronto Police eight-week program offers an up-close look at what challenges police officers face on a daily basis. The most recent graduation was on May 26
Participants learned about Canada’s largest municipal police service and the criminal justice system, engaged in use-of-force and scenario-based training and toured the Mounted Unit and Police Dog Services.
Leon Lui, an accountant, lives near Moss Park and wanted to learn how to help his own community with homelessness, often tied to mental health and addiction issues.
“Learning about the processes that police go through and having an opportunity to visit some of their units were very fulfilling,” Lui said, about understanding the role of police.
He said the scenario-based training was a real revelation.
“What I enjoyed the most was being in the shoes of police officers and experiencing the pressure they face despite their extensive training,” Lui added. “That changed my perspective about the way they deal with certain high-tension situations.”
The scenario training allowed participants to immerse themselves in the police officer’s role by experiencing some of the complex and challenging calls for service officers in the city respond to daily.
Toronto District School Board teacher Tevya Reid also relished the hands-on training.
“Being able to be placed in their position when they are on the road on any given day and to see what they have to go through and how they react was very rewarding,” he said.
The Nelson Mandela Public School educator offered a few recommendations for advancing the program.
“The amount of information that is shared verbally is beneficial and I took copious notes,” said Reid. “I would like to see each of the units provide information that can be packaged together into a formal document that can be used as a teaching tool. In the long term, it’s not only about the community supporting the police, but the police doing a better job of communicating a lot of the things they are doing, especially when they are positive.”
Faye Stanley has resided in the Parma Court community for many years.
“I have had some negative interactions with the police and I wanted to increase my awareness about policing so that I can assist the community in which I live,” she said. “This program is very useful.”
Aspiring police officer Sharnalee Hope got a first-hand look of what it takes to be a cop.
“This was a fantastic experience and it solidified the position I took a few years ago that this is the profession I want to be in,” said the Driftwood community resident, who migrated from Jamaica four years ago.
Graduates get credits towards a Community Policing Certificate and are empowered to have an impact on community safety in their own neighbourhoods and act as ambassadors for the Service.
“The time you have spent over the last eight weeks has provided you with lots of information,” said Kim Pavan, the director of Professional & Continuing Education in the School of Social and Community Services at Humber College. “I assure you that you learned things you didn’t know and you probably corrected assumptions that you have had. You now have a responsibility to use the information you received to educate family, friends, colleagues and your peers.”
Staff Sergeant Bryan Campbell told the graduates that they can have a role in helping their communities in the future.
“It is our hope that, with this training, we can foster police and community partnerships by creating an environment of increased trust, co-operation and collaboration,” he said. “The program curriculum was painstakingly created to allow maximum transparency so that each candidate is given the best opportunity to fully understand and explore what officers in the community are doing and why they are doing it.”
Employed with the City of Toronto as a Community Development Officer with the Community Crisis Response program, Rose-Ann Bailey works closely with Toronto Police.
“This program provided me an opportunity to get a better understanding of the work they do and how the various units function,” she said. “The one thing I would like to see is that it’s moved around, perhaps to Humber College or somewhere in the east end. Having said that, it allows members of the community to come to the police college. Sometimes, we feel we don’t deserve or we shouldn’t be in certain places.”
Const. Jaime Shepherd is the program co-ordinator.
The other graduates were Sarah Bellhouse, Risa Caplan, James Clarke, Grace Cordova, Deborah Crane, Greg Crompton, Abd El Nasser, April Elipse, Rebekah Feliciano, Jake Grnak, Raja Kanaga, O’Neil Mangal, Jonathan Matta, Sherise McBean, Naima Mire, Raafat Missak, Asha Mohamed, David Morales, Christopher Papailadis, Saurabh Patel, Vanessa Solorzano, Kevin Teixeira, Atieq Wasim, Igor Wurgaft, Tyler Zaborowski and Anna Zhang.
The next program starts on September 29.
To learn more, visit the Community Police Academy webpage