Growing up in a small community in Prince Edward Island, Tanya Veer-Casey was very familiar with the top cop in the town.
She wasn’t the only one.
He was the only officer in the department and everyone knew him well.
“This guy was everywhere and he made us all feel safe,” said Veer-Casey. “He inspired me and my earliest recollection of wanting to be a police officer was when I was about 13 or 14 years.”
Her wish has come true even though it took some time.
Veer-Casey, 49, is the oldest recruit in a class of 55 presented with their badges at a graduation ceremony on January 31 at the Toronto Police College.
After completing high school in the 1980s, she pursued marketing & international business studies at McGill University.
“The thought of becoming a female police officer was not something that was attainable back then,” said Veer-Casey, of her perception that women were not being hired. She is among 12 women in the graduating class. “I come from an academic family and my parents wanted me to go to university.”
Her father was a senior pathologist while her mom, who died in May 2017, was the first female member of the University of Prince Edward Island history department.
Tired of selling widgets, Veer-Casey left the advertising sector after 10 years and became a fund development specialist for charities in the Durham region.
“Even though I felt accomplished helping marginalized groups raise money for social services and looking after children and youth with special needs, senior citizens and women that experienced abuse, I wanted an opportunity to get my hands dirty,” she said. “What I did was always from behind a desk.”
With interpersonal skills and life experiences, Veer-Casey feels she is going to be an asset to Canada’s largest municipal police service.
“I started the process to be a cop two years ago and here I am as the eldest in the class and proud of it,” said the mother of two teenage boys, who will serve in 43 Division in south Scarborough.
Daniel Crawford was also motivated at a young age to be a police officer after a cop delivered a motivational talk to his Grade Two class.
“I remember him sitting on the floor with us and telling us how exciting his career was,” recalled Crawford, whose wife is a registered nurse. “A seed was planted and I knew I was going to get that badge one day.”
He spent nine years preparing for a policing career.
After completing the police foundations program at Fleming College, Crawford did post-graduate studies in emergency management & business continuity and volunteered with Victim Services Barrie, Crime Stoppers and St. John’s Ambulance.
He was also the security supervisor for almost five years at Southlake Regional Health Centre.
“Nothing comes before its time and I am so happy and proud to be a member of Toronto Police,” said Crawford, who is assigned to 33 Division – the east side of North York.
Sharing a home and work environment with her husband doesn’t bother Yoko Maliszweski.
Constable Edward De Nobrega, who joined the Service three years ago at age 41, has been her inspiration in many ways.
Six months into the job, he became a paraplegic after a tumor was removed from his spine.
“With his determination and will power, Eddie has beaten the odds and has a large amount of his mobility back,” said Maliszweski, who graduated from the University of Toronto with a history degree and worked in student services at the university for a decade. “I thought the door to policing was closed, but my husband is a shining example of not taking life for granted. That is what encouraged me to pursue my dream.”
De Nobrega presented the badge to his wife of 11 years with the aid of walking sticks – he currently teaches at the Toronto Police College. Maliszweski will serve in 14 Division, where her husband first started his career.
Maliszweski, an accomplished Muay Thai fighter, was the recipient of the Harry Mayzel Leadership Award.
A decade after arriving in Canada as a refugee, Alain Arakaza is the first Burundian to be a Toronto Police uniformed member.
He and his two brothers fled the civil war in 2007 and spent two years in Kenya.
After almost three years as a Canadian Armed Forces gunner, Arakaza joined Toronto Community Housing (TCH) as a special constable. With Toronto Police hiring freeze lifted in late 2017, he jumped at the opportunity to serve as a police officer.
“This is a job I have always pictured myself doing,” the Algonquin College of Applied Arts & Technology police foundations graduate said. “It’s a career that offers job security and the opportunity to provide for my family when I get one. I don’t want them to go through what I did. The other thing is that I could relate to people in the community who are having tough times. I know what struggle and hardship are like and can relate to them.”
You are from a generation of police officers that are the most trained, educated and informed
Dana Gidlow, the president of the Toronto Police Military Veterans Association, presented Arakaza with his badge at the graduation ceremony on January 31.
“When I came to Toronto, I sought out Dana as a mentor,” said the recruit who is assigned to 32 Division, which covers the centre of North York and North Toronto. “We connected and developed a friendship.”
Arakaza was presented with the Military Veterans Award for drill, dress and deportment.
In welcoming the recruits to the fold, Chief Mark Saunders told them the demand for responsible, accountable and transparent policing is extremely high.
“Rise to this occasion,” he said. “You are from a generation of police officers that are the most trained, educated and informed. Use these skills to show the public every day that you too believe, and demonstrate the best of what policing is all about. There will be times when all of this might feel like too much. But remember you are not alone.”
The new class brings extraordinary language skills to the Service with 42 per cent speaking more than one language.
A total of 35 per cent are visible minorities.
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle told the graduates that their diversity mirrors the city.
“The quality of our Service is strengthened when the diversity of our great city is reflected in those who police it,” he said. “Through you, we can reach out to our different communities and neighbourhoods, speak to community members in their home languages, build and strengthen relationships and thus enhance our ever-important partnerships with the public.”
Be proud of yourselves as you perform your valued responsibilities. Take satisfaction in knowing that your role is critical in keeping our city safe and allowing us to enjoy a quality of life that’s envied around the world
With the Service undergoing major changes as it modernizes, the new members are joining at an exciting time in the organization’s history.
“You will be part of this significant transformation and we welcome your contribution as to how we can serve the public most effectively and most efficiently, continually working alongside our communities in true partnership,” added Pringle. “Be proud of yourselves as you perform your valued responsibilities. Take satisfaction in knowing that your role is critical in keeping our city safe and allowing us to enjoy a quality of life that’s envied around the world.”
Acting Supt. Kim O’Toole, the TPS College Unit commander, heaped praise on her team for the expertise, guidance, mentorship and support they provided to the graduating class.
She also congratulated the recruits and reminded them that treating people fairly, transparently and impartially and hearing their voices are critical.
“These principles of procedural justice speak directly to the development of trust and confidence,” she said. “This cannot be taken for granted and one cannot assume that because you wear a uniform that you are trusted. Trust is earned when we hold each other accountable, when you are true to your word and values and when you do the right thing – every time – even when no one is looking.”
O’Toole noted that earning and maintaining trust are among the most significant challenges for police officers.
“We police with permission,” she added. “Policing by consent is a fragile balance between creating and losing public trust. We are constantly held to a higher level of accountability in developing and maintaining that trust. Each and every interaction counts. One interaction can shape someone’s opinion of the police for years to come.”
Mayor John Tory, who is a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, attended the graduation.
He told the graduates that policing is a career that requires a great deal of courage, compassion and commitment.
“You will have extraordinary opportunities that carry the obligation at all times to act in a way that builds public trust and enhances the goods reputation of Toronto Police and indeed the City of Toronto,” said Tory.
Jeff Churchill was the recipient of the Glen Cole Memorial Award as the class valedictorian, Peggy Chan was presented with the Diversity & Inclusion Award, Melody Carroll won the High Performance Fitness Award and Patrick McFall received the Most Improved Fitness honour.
Nathaniel Curry and Ahmad Sarhan won the Honour Student Awards with a 99 per cent average.
The graduating class raised $1,612 from a summer barbecue that was presented to Victim Services Toronto.