Ayesha Akbar is on a mission.
Growing up, she was told that Muslim women could become homemakers, doctors, lawyers or teachers. Policing was never mentioned.
The 2014 Youth in Policing (YIPI) graduate intends to break that mould.
“I often heard that policing was out of our realm,” said Akbar, who came to Canada from Pakistan when she was three years old. “I will change that. There are no female Toronto hijab-wearing officers and I want to be the first.”
After graduating from Humber College’s Police Foundations program, she plans to apply for a law enforcement job with Toronto at the top of her list. She has prior experience with the Service, assigned to 33 Division as a Youth In Policing Initiative student.
She was among 33 graduates of the Community Police Academy program who received their certificates on November 23 at the Police College.
The Toronto Police eight-week program offers an up-close look at what challenges police officers face on a daily basis in order to create understanding of policing in the community.
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 and Marine Units and Police Dog Services.
Graduates are empowered to have an impact on community safety in their own neighbourhoods and act as ambassadors for the Service.
“This was an amazing experience and some of the things I learned will help me with my preparation for my final exams,” Akbar, who comes from a family of teachers, said.
As the founder of StrengthBox gym, Greg Carver has always had an interest in policing.
“Officers and civilians are members of my gym as well as community members from who I hear a lot of opinions and comments about the police,” he said. “This experience provided me with the information I need to take back to my community.”
Carver said the program exceeded expectations.
“I was blown away by the expertise that the subject matter experts brought to the table,” he said. “They also showed that they actually care. Having the scenario-based training was awesome because you get to put into practice what you have learned and that’s really valuable.”
Carver has applied to be a Toronto Police Auxiliary member.
“If that doesn’t happen, I wouldn’t mind serving on one of the liaison committees,” he said, of becoming a uniform volunteer. “The academy training will help me in those endeavours.”
Nicole Kirwan migrated five years ago from Ireland where she worked with young offenders.
She has been engaged in after-school programming here for the last few years.
“So, I have worked in more of the prevention side of things,” she said. “I wanted to get involved in this program to see what community supports are out there. I see people like Rob North from the Homicide Unit and then I get to learn from his expertise. That’s so enriching. I think this is a program that most people working in community services should access.”
Through this program, Kirwan began considering a career in policing.
“I have gone to a few information sessions at headquarters and I have booked a few tests,” she said.
Deputy Chief Peter Yuen was tasked with the responsibility of renewing the program that’s run in conjunction with Humber College – who offer graduates credits towards a Community Policing Certificate.
It speaks to one of the goals of the Toronto Police Service which is our connection with you, the community
“This is a great day,” Yuen said. “It speaks to one of the goals of the Toronto Police Service which is our connection with you, the community… Eight weeks is not a long period. We can’t change your minds in that period. But you have a glimpse of what we are all about and hopefully we have peaked your interest as you seek more knowledge about the Toronto Police Service.”
Graduates get credits towards a Humber College Community Policing Certificate and are empowered to have an impact on community safety in their own neighbourhoods and act as ambassadors for the Service.
“You are now the ambassadors for us, so go out there and spread what you heard with your community, friends and family,” said Yuen. “Challenge us and critique us and hold us to the highest standard possible.”
Also graduating were Richard Anstett, Chanelle Blair, Jordan Bruce, Cheryl Cunning, Adrian Deonarine, Giancarlo DiTullio, Luminita Gagea, Osvaldo Garcia, Roy German, Nadia Haidar, Paulina Ortiz, Ruthmary James, Javon Johnson, Mary Kairys, Mykhailo and Stanislav Lalynych, Sidra Khan, Kevin Kumar, Jodie Leishman, Robert Mounsey, Sandy Ngo, Lana Parrott, Afsaneh Raissi, Nikolina Ruzic, Daniel Semaan, Zen Sharifabadi, Deep Singh, Ahilan Sooriyamoorthy, Dwayne Williams and Johnny Wong.
Program co-cordinator Const. Jamie Shepherd said the next class starting in mid-March will be expanded to nine weeks.
“Right now, our speakers present for just over an hour,” he said. “They will have a minimum 90 minutes to make their presentations. The change is as a result of the feedback from graduates.”
There were 170 applicants for the last class.
This was the fifth graduation since the program was revived two years ago.
To learn more or apply for the next class, visit the Community Police Academy webpage.