Graduates Heed Call to Policing

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 5:53 p.m. January 31, 2020

Nearly 18 months ago, Steevens Audige received an interesting text message from a friend. “I think you should become a police officer,” it read.

Two men in TPS uniform hugging
Constable Steevens Audige congratulates a fellow grad

Audige’s response was, ‘Thank you, but I have no interest at all’ and ‘Why do you think I should become a police officer’?

“We need good people,” the friend replied.

The Executive Pastor for the last seven years at The Peoples Church in North York did a lot of soul searching.

“I prayed and talked to mentors to get a sense of what they thought about me becoming a police officer,” he said. “When I presented the idea to my wife, she told me that when she was younger, she told God two things and they were ‘I don’t want to marry a pastor and a cop’. She figured she had relented and gone half way, so she might as well go the distance with me.”

Encouraged by his wife and mentors, Audige took the plunge and is heading to 53 Division to start his law enforcement career.

“One of my mentors told me that everything I have done so far has prepared me for policing and it’s a career I should pursue,” he said.

Audige sent in his application last May and received the call on his birthday that he was accepted.

“When I told my dad in March about what I was doing, he said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if God give you that for your birthday’,” recounted Audige, who graduated from the Canadian Bible College in 2001 and was a Student Ministry Pastor at Rexdale Alliance Church for 11 years. “Sure enough on the morning of August 1, I got the great news.”

He was among 119 recruits presented with their badges at a graduation ceremony on January 31 at Fort York Armoury.

Audige said his church family has been extremely supportive of him pursuing a new career.

“When I made the announcement at church,” I got a standing ovation,” he said. “A lot of them feel this is a step in the right direction. They also are of the opinion that I have a lot to offer when it comes to bridging the gap between the police and the community.”

A line of people in TPS uniform
A line of officers wait to receive their badge

For a Grade Five assignment, Jenn Minchin toured a Hamilton Police station with her dad’s best friend brother who is a cop.

“I was in awe of what he did and the things he showed me at that station,” the Athlete of the Year in all four years in high school recalled. “I was 10 years old at the time and I vowed I would become a police officer.”

After graduating from Brock University with a Sociology degree, Minchin loaded vehicles into rail cars for a decade before applying to be a police officer.

“I applied twice to the Hamilton Police Service because I wanted to give back to the community where I was born and raised,” she said. “When I didn’t get through, I turned my attention to Toronto and was successful on my first try.”

A top class curler, Minchin also plays Australian and Gaelic football and is a member of the Northern Lights team that will compete in the Australia Football League (AFL) International Cup competition on the Sunshine Coast in southern Queensland from July 25 to August 8.

She has been assigned to 51 Division

It also took Lisa Sidhu 10 years to realize her dream of becoming a police officer.

Recognizing she didn’t want to be a Physiotherapist after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, Sidhu turned her attention to law enforcement and applied to Toronto Police and a few other Services.

She was unsuccessful.

“I was 22 at the time and didn’t have much in terms of life experience to show,” she said.

Returning to the classroom, Sidhu pursued Biotechnology Forensics at Fleming College and was a Firearms Technologist for almost five years with the Centre for Forensic Sciences.

“Even though I was on the other side of policing, I wanted to be on the road interacting with people and not necessarily sitting in front of a computer screen looking at firearms and ammunition,” she said.

Two women in TPS uniform marching
Constables Chennelle Matheson and Lisa Sidhu

The recruits spent 12 weeks at the Ontario Police College and a further nine weeks at the Toronto Police College.

“I really enjoyed how much the focus was on working in groups and team building,” said Sidhu, who is assigned to 12 Division. “We are mentally and physically prepared for the challenge of policing this city.”

The recipient of the the Harry Mayzel Leadership Award is following the footsteps of her father, Const. Arvind Sidhu, who is at Traffic Services.

The family migrated 20 years ago from India where her dad was a Colonel in the Indian Army.

The new class comprises 13 per cent women and the age range is from 20 to 54.

The Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) program was established to provide young people in some of the city’s priority neighbouhoods with an inside view of policing.

The expectation was that some of them would consider policing as a career.

Since the program inception in July 2006, just two graduates have become TPS uniformed officers.

Two men in uniform holding plaque
Class valedictorian Evan Murphy with Chief Mark Saunders

Const. Thushanth Selvakumar, who was in the inaugural YIPI class 14 years ago, was sworn in in 2014 and is assigned to Traffic Services while Const. Mamon Ahmed, who was in the 2008 YIPI class, received his badge in 2018 and is at 53 Division.

The number has increased by two with the swearing in of Ricardo Araujo and Senthoor Gnanasegeran.

Araujo has been part of the TPS family since joining the YIPI program in the summer of 2010 and been assigned to Forensic Identification Services (FIS).

“That was my first job and things went really well,” he said. “I was exposed to mentors during the program and at my school where we had School Resource Officer.”

Araujo graduated from St. Oscar Romero Catholic Secondary School where 12 Division officer Const. David Michaud was the SRO.

After completing high school, he joined the program as a junior assistant before transitioning to a program assistant.

Leaving the YIPI program in December 2018, Araujo spent six months with the Records Management Unit before successfully applying to be a uniformed officer.

“For a long time, I didn’t feel ready, but I had a lot of mentors who told me you had to make that move and do it because you may never feel ready,” he said. “I took their advice.”

Gnanasegeran was in the same YIPI class with Araujo who is assigned to 13 Division.

“A few months ago, I was snooping around on the TPS YouTube and I saw Ricardo,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that this guy was still with the Service.”

The YIPI experience inspired Gnanasegeran to become a police officer.

“When I was a kid, I had a light interest in the profession,” he said. “That dissipated and it was only after becoming a YIPI that I realized that policing is my calling.”

While pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Gnanasegeran – who begins his policing career at 33 Division – worked in security, primarily at Toronto Community Housing buildings. After graduation, he spent 16 months as a Correctional Officer.

A line of officers in uniform with band marching
The Toronto Police Pipe Band marches at the graduation at Fort York Armoury

The new class brings extraordinary language skills to the Service with 33 per cent speaking more than one language. A total of 88 per cent have completed post-secondary education and seven per cent has graduate degrees.

Evan Murphy was the class valedictorian while Matthew Trecroce won the High Academic Achievement Award and the Cyril E. Cole Memorial Award for Overall Academic Honours with a 99.6 per cent average.

Cole was a member of the Service in 1949 when the Great Lakes Cruise Chip – S.S Noronic – caught fire in Toronto harbour. He jumped into the water and pulled 23 people from the burning ship. The former Metro Police College (now Toronto Police College) Unit commander died in 1994 at age 77.

Daniel Kavanagh was the recipient of the Gulshan Kassamali Diversity & Inclusion Memorial Award and Chennelle Matheson received the Military Veterans Drill & Deportment Award.

Each recruiting class organizes a fundraiser for a noble cause.

The graduates raised $2,300 for Searchlight Service Dogs that provides service dogs to its clients suffering from PTSD or other mental health conditions.

A man in uniform standing
Chief Mark Saunders leads a standing ovation for the newest officers to join the Service
A woman greeting a woman in TPS uniform
A proud mom greets one of the newest grads
TPS crest watermark