While at military school in Welland, Scott Bacon was inspired by one of the teachers he considers a mentor.
Little did he know that Bill Parks is a retired Niagara Regional Police Service officer who spent almost three decades with that organization.
“I didn’t know he was a cop at first, but I have a lot of respect for that man,” said Bacon, among 20 new Toronto Police Service (TPS) graduates who will receive their badges on June 7. “He is very kind, he is a man of integrity and he possesses a quiet strength. I wanted to know a little bit more about him and it was only then that he told me he was a police officer.”
Wanting to be just like his mentor, Bacon switched careers in his second year in military school.
“Besides the impact that that retired officer made on me, I just felt like I wanted to do things for people and not to people,” he said.
Eight years ago, Bacon had a successful interview with the TPS. Unfortunately, a hiring freeze put recruitment on hold and he turned to jujitsu – his favorite sport – to occupy his time.
“I did that for about seven years, competing and touring the world,” he pointed out.
Last year, close friend Claudio Rescigno – assigned to 22 Division – encouraged Bacon to re-apply to the TPS.
“He thought I had a lot to offer to the Service and was wasting my talent,” said the new recruit. “To be honest, that’s really where I wanted to be and I took his advice.”
A Service member for the last nine years, Rescigno said Bacon has a lot to give to the Service and the people of Toronto.
“He’s very community-minded, he’s a people person and someone who will give of himself to others at any time,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will make Toronto Police proud.”
After 13 weeks of gruelling training, Bacon is set to embark on his new career.
“The thing that I like about Toronto Police is that there are so many opportunities for you to use your skills and talent,” he said. “I love working with people in crisis and helping them find a starting point, so I feel as if I could be a valuable asset as a member of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT).
Officers and nurses work together to assess an individual's specific needs, provide intervention and support at the scene, de-escalate the situation and ensure the person is connected to appropriate services. The MCIT also provides a secondary response to 9-1-1 calls involving people experiencing a psychiatric or emotional crisis that requires intervention.
A 2006 graduate of Seneca College’s Police Foundations program, Bacon is assigned to 32 Division.
“This is a bit like going home for me because I lived in that Division for a while,” he added. “I know the area and some of the hotspots.”
Employed at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Tam Vo wasn’t relishing his role as a correctional officer.
“I learnt the job pretty quickly and much of what I was doing was routine,” said Vo, who left after 18 months. “It was boring and tedious and I wanted a challenge.”
He applied to the Service after the hiring freeze was lifted late last year.
“I was lucky because I applied at the right time and was very fortunate to be selected,” added Vo, who is from the Windsor area.
He said the training was intense and gruelling.
“It was a like a rollercoaster,” Vo, a graduate of St. Clair College’s Community & Justice Services program, noted. “There were good and bad days, but some of the scenarios that were really stressful on what I consider to be the bad days were, in a sense, good because they were a learning experience.”
As a mental health worker in group homes across the city, Shevan Ellis interacted with police officers on a regular basis.
“Most of the times, I was a very useful resource to them when they were called,” he said. “I figured I could use my experience better as a Toronto Police member. That job actually prepared me for policing.”
The new recruit considers policing “the only career I see myself spending the rest of my life in.”
“There is a multiplicity of directions you can go in,” said Ellis, who migrated from Jamaica nearly 20 years ago and was also a Toronto District School Board mental health worker for five years.
Raised in 12 Division, Ellis said the positive interactions he had with police far outweigh some of the negative ones.
“You can’t paint everyone with the same brush and that’s something I learnt a long time ago,” he said.
Vo and Ellis are assigned to 53 Division.
The new class comprises 10 per cent women and 25 per cent visible minority members.
A total of 85 per cent successfully completed post-secondary education and 70 per cent have previous military or policing experience.
A total of 35 per cent of the class speak another language other than English, including Spanish, Punjabi, Russian, Urdu and Vietnamese.
The graduation ceremony starts at noon at the Toronto Police College, 70 Birmingham St.