A few years ago, Toronto Police recovered a lawn mower and other property stolen from Veeththakan Kaveekaran’s residence.
That act stuck with the Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute student, who vowed to pursue a career in policing with Canada’s largest municipal police service.
Kaveekaran is now a member of the Toronto Police family, joining 152 Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) members who were sworn in on July 3 at police headquarters.
In its 12th year, the annual summer program caters to high school and university students, between 15 and 18, who come from City of Toronto-designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and often struggle to find summer employment.
Earning $14 an hour, the YIPI students are exposed to the Service’s Divisions and support units, working alongside both uniform and civilian members.
“I would have applied to be in the program even if I wasn’t being paid,” said Kaveekaran, who will enter Grade 11 in September. “I was so impressed with the way the officers showed that they genuinely cared about my family’s loss, and the effort they made to find the stolen items. That’s when I said that’s the profession I want to be in because I want to help people.”
Kaveekaran, in charge of his school’s social media page, saw the YIPI advertisement while doing some research on the internet.
“I applied last year, but didn’t make the final cut,” he said. “I was determined to get in this year and I am so happy I was chosen.”
For Jewairiyah Israr, the fifth time proved lucky.
“I have been applying since Grade 10,” said the Victoria Park Collegiate graduate, who is pursuing business management studies at the University of Toronto. “At that time, I wanted to become a cop, but my career options have changed. I am still, however, interested in getting a good view of policing from the inside and I am really looking forward to this opportunity. I am also counting on meeting new people, making lasting relationships and developing professionally.”
This is her second summer job, having worked at McDonald’s.
“The main difference is that there are no graduation ceremonies at McDonald’s,” she added.
A 2017 YIPI graduate encouraged Anika Munir to apply.
“My friend told me how wonderful the program is,” said the East York Collegiate Institute student, who plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in geographical analysis at Ryerson University and a graduate degree in spatial analysis. “I would love to come back to work with Toronto Police in any area relating to mapping.”
The Toronto Police Services Board has strongly endorsed the program since its inception in 2006.
Board member Ken Jeffers said the program is a part of a comprehensive Board and Service strategy aimed at enhancing community safety.
“It reflects the Board’s recognition of the importance of using comprehensive and meaningful preventive measures, alongside traditional law enforcement, in dealing with issues of crime prevention, community safety and public engagement in our city,” said Jeffers.
“…As our YIPI students, you will take on meaningful work during the summer, work that develops important employment and life skills while fostering hope and pride among our young people…You are about to embark upon one of the most valuable educational opportunities you will ever have. Take this time to learn from our police officers and from each other. Be proud of the great contribution you are making to your city and know that we, as a Board and as an organization, share the pride that your families feel today.”
Deputy Chief Peter Yuen welcomed the students to the Toronto Police fold.
“This is going to be a wonderful ride,” he told them. “Our Service is changing and we want to build partnerships and safer communities. Bring back to your communities what you see and what your hear so that your friends could get a better idea of what policing is all about. You may not change their minds, but you may add a different lens to how they view our Service. This is a happy day for us.”
Jerome Trebena-Smith, who graduated in 2015 and is a Toronto firefighter, and 2006 graduate Greg Staggolis, who is a York Regional Police officer, addressed the incoming YIPI class.
“You get one chance to be a YIPI, so make the best use of this opportunity,” Staggolis told them.
He also offered some useful tips.
“Stay off your phones as much as you can while at work, ensure that your uniform is worn properly and be early for work every day,” added Staggolis, who has a degree in international hotel management and taught English for two years in South Korea.
There were close to 1,000 applicants this year.