Honouring Vital Voices Behind Every Call for Help

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 1:48 p.m. October 7, 2020

A Communications Operator who helped officers respond to a chaotic shooting scene was recognized among the Telecommunicators of the Year recently.

A man holding a glass plaque
Communications Operator Paul Youngs was honoured for his coordination of a response to a shooting as a police dispatcher

Communications operator Paul Youngs helped dispatch officers from three different police Divisions to the scene of a shooting call close to 6 a.m. on April 28, 2019 near Finch Ave. E. and Tapscott Rd.

Early reports indicated multiple persons were in a bar armed with guns, a shot was fired and there were possible hostages.

“The location was in 42 Division where I was dispatching, so I needed to ensure that containment was set up quickly,” said Youngs, who was honoured with the Toronto Police Service Telecommunicator of the Year Award September 25 alongside Toronto Paramedic Services and Toronto Fire Services recepients. “We needed resources from other Divisions and we had them available, which was great. This was a team effort.”

He directed officers to appropriate points or the command post depending on where they were needed, broadcast multiple suspect descriptions, noted an area outside the bar with a large pool of blood for further investigation and confirmed over the air the arrest of three individuals.

“Paul was continuously relaying and recording information fluently, communicating effectively and directing units appropriately,” said Tamara Caldwell, who nominated Youngs for the award. “He was always in command of the situation.

“He exemplifies the core values of our Service by being innovative and responsive in his dispatching and by remaining solution-focused and working collaboratively to bring this event to a safe conclusion for officers and citizens alike. He performed an outstanding job dispatching this event and should be commended for a job well done.”

Communications Manager Kerry-Anne Murray-Bates also heaped praise on Youngs.

The event is a great example of the incredible work done every day in Communications centres across the city. The tremendous relationships between our Emergency Services agencies and partnerships ensure a comprehensive and compassionate response to the communities we serve

“The event is a great example of the incredible work done every day in Communications centres across the city,” she said. “The tremendous relationships between our Emergency Services agencies and partnerships ensure a comprehensive and compassionate response to the communities we serve.”

Youngs joined Communications nine years ago after serving as a Parking Enforcement officer for almost a decade.

“I needed a different kind of challenge and that’s why I made the switch,” he said. “Communications appealed to me because I am more of a ‘behind-the-scene’ person. I thought about becoming a uniformed officer in my younger days, but I think what I am doing now suits my skill set. I like it because you get to see what you are doing is making a difference.”

Toronto Paramedic Services members Courtney Poirier and Melissa Bender were the recipients of the Emergency Medical Dispatcher of the Year and the Communication Training Officer Mentor Awards respectively while Greg Lees was presented with the Senior Emergency Medical Dispatcher Leadership Award.

Toronto Fire Services Shift 4 won the Telecommunicators of the Year Award for skillfully handling more than 200 additional calls involving three major fires on September 22, 2019.

The team comprises Acting District Chief Glenn Watters, Captains Chris Belford and Jenn Greenlaw and crew members Colin Coull, Karl Hoefel, Angela Libby, Darrell Vaillancourt, Traci Cairns, Corey Rowley, Kristen Scriver, Angela Sibbald, Mehrdad Pourkamali, Mark McQuay and Joanne Cote.

Communications Operators are a vital link between citizens needing urgent assistance and police, fire and medical personnel responding to calls for service. They are required to learn how to ask pertinent questions, give sound advice and process calls relating to a range of offences and incidents.

As a result, they must be attentive listeners, show good judgment and common sense, be critical thinkers and stay calm in a crisis.

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