Alex Ley is excited to be part of something new. He’s among the second class of District Special Constables (DSC) that graduated on April 11 at the Toronto Police College.
The position was created to supplement and help create capacity for frontline officers.
“I feel like the early DSCs have an opportunity to shape the program and help influence the Service in how they deploy us,” said Ley, whose wife – Meaghan also works for the Service. They have a two-year-old daughter.
Ley worked in civilian roles with the Service, including as a Parking Enforcement Officer for over three years and in construction before that. His ultimate goal is become a police officer.
“There are small steps you have to take before you get where you want to go,” said Ley, who was the class valedictorian. “I know that and am going to do everything I could to be the best DSC and serve Toronto Police very well in that capacity.”
Ley’s father-in-law, retired D/Sgt. Steve Morse, presented him with his badge.
Like Ley, Deanna Henley was a Parking Enforcement Officer.
“I did that for eight months,” she said. “I made the switch because I think I could give a little bit more to the Service. I am interested in becoming a uniformed officer, so this seemed like an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Service and grow.”
The DSC training lasted 12 weeks, including instruction on crime scene management and de-escalation techniques. Almost all of the DSCs have completed post-secondary education.
“We were exposed to every aspect of policing,” said Henley, who graduated from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and was an Executive Assistant to former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner. “We learned a lot.”
The class of DSC consists of 26 current members and four external hires who have stepped forward to join and support the Service on the frontline.
A total of 14 was hired last year.
Deployed to Priority Response Command 51 and 14 Divisions, the recruits will support frontline members with booking and prisoner management, basic report taking, document service, crime scene security, canvassing, evidence & missing person searches, evidence collecting & processing, parking infractions and mental health & de-escalation.
They will also assist community members with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). In addition, they have been extended Mental Health Act Section 17 powers that enable them to take custody of a person apprehended by a police officer.
A total of 30 Court Officers also graduated alongside the District Special Constables.
“This is a dream come true for me and I am so happy to have my family here to share this special moment with me,” said Jose Buruca, a married father of seven children whose ages range from nine months to 12 years.
He has been a Knights of Columbus youth counsellor for five years.
“I am someone who loves to serve,” said Buruca, who was a security manager at Vaughan Mills for 12 years. “I relish interacting with people, especially youths.”
Born in the United States and raised in Toronto, Buruca said the eight-week training program was intense.
“We learned a lot and there were many days when my body was sore from the physical training,” the class valedictorian added. “But I enjoyed every moment of it and the new friends I made.”
Of the 30 new Court Officers, 96 per cent have completed post-secondary education and 42 per cent speak languages other than English.
They will be responsible for transporting over 400 prisoners who attend court daily in 272 courtrooms across the city. They will also ensure the safe management of about 60,000 citizens appearing in in-custody annually.
In welcoming the DSC and Court Officers to the police family, Chief Mark Saunders reminded them they are peace officers.
“We are looking for guardians and not warriors,” he said. “When we talk about community safety, developing relationships and about moving forward as a police organization, our role and responsibility first and foremost is to serve others. It takes a special brand of individual that says, ‘I will sign up to do that’. I will serve others before self is a testament to who you are. So it really is not a job. It’s a calling and to sign up for this takes a really special person.”
In order to be successful in their new roles, Saunders advised the recruits to adhere to their top-of-the-line training, use their moral compass to help people that need help and value the importance of people they come into contact with.
“That, by far, is the most critical determination as to whether or not as an organization, we will or will not be liked,” the Chief said. “When we do our surveys to find out how people feel about TPS, over and over again the response is always developed on the first contact that people have with any Service member. If that contact is good, they like us. That contact is resonating because when we spoke to over 20,000 people, the first contact had such an impact. So you have to understand the impact and influence you have when you wear that uniform every day.”
In his remarks, Toronto Police Services Board Executive Director Ryan Teschner told the graduates they are an integral and significant part of the organization.
“You will play a vital role in the support of the ‘The Way Forward’ which is our comprehensive modernization and transformation plan,” he said. “We are lucky to have each one of you for your talent, skills, insights and connections… As Special Constables, you are now part of the continuum of community safety services that our organization delivers to residents and visitors in Toronto each and every day.
“It is you and your colleagues throughout the Service who do the difficult work of keeping us all safe. It is you who have made the decision to devote yourselves fully to others to serve and protect us all. You signed up for something larger than yourselves and for this we all benefit. Those of us who benefit from your protection should never let our gratitude to you slip or become something we take for granted.”
Supt. Christopher Kirkpatrick, the College’s Unit Commander, thanked the graduates for their attention and determination.
“You are part of the best police service in Canada and the world,” he said.
Court Officer Clayton Hubble won the High Academic Achievement Award with a 97.7 per cent mark, DSC Naveed Zaidi was the recipient of the Physical Training Most Improved Award as voted by his peers, Court Officer Alexander Maj and DSC Devon Skeats were the Physical Training High Performance Award winners and DSC Angelo Franceschinis and Court Officer Jason Han were the Leadership Award recipients.
For more information on policing and civilian roles with the Toronto Police Service, visittps.on.ca/careers