Just before graduation last year, John Ypsilantis suffered a serious leg injury that delayed his entry into the Toronto Police uniformed ranks.
He broke an ankle while playing dodgeball in the police gym eight days after completing the 12-week training at the Ontario Police College (OPC).
Ypsilantis was among 60 recruits that received their badges from Chief James Ramer on October 16.
“It was worth the wait,” he said. “This is a smaller group than the one I was in last year which had 135. With this group, we are very close as opposed to last year when there are people that I can barely recognize now because I never ran into them.”
Migrating from Greece nine years ago, Ypsilantis worked in private security before applying to become a police officer.
He made the decision four years ago.
“I wanted to wear a uniform with a police service that has a history,” said Ypsilantis who is assigned to 33 Division.
He is the only recruiting class member who trained at the OPC.
In welcoming the newcomers to the fold, Chief James Ramer acknowledged their commitment to public service and their choice of Toronto Police.
He also told them they are becoming officers at a pivotal moment in policing.
“You are joining the police service at a time when working respectfully and collaboratively with our communities has never been more important,” said Ramer. “I am confident in your ability to do so. Collectively, you have persevered through a global pandemic, dedicated to completing your training as a team. That shows me you do the right thing, have service at your core and are able to connect compassionately with each other.
“You are also ideal candidates for this new wave of policing that will be driven by the community for the community. It’s policing that will share responsibilities with partners trained and equipped to respond to the complex needs of a large urban city and policing that will not just listen, but will respond.”
The Chief re-iterated that policing is one of the most socially meaningful and rewarding career choices there is.
“As members of the TPS, we have the opportunity to make enormous positive contributions to the lives of Torontonians every day,” he pointed out. “It is our responsibility to ensure that our communities can trust and have confidence in us and that they can feel safe to enjoy their lives with us. As a Service, this turning point in policing has been reflected in many of the steps we have taken, steps that will not only support you on the frontline, but support the needs of our communities.”
Ramer also reminded the graduates that their wellness is very critical, to the organization.
“If you cannot be at your best, then your interactions with the public will not be the best they can be,” he added. “While policing is a very rewarding and fulfilling career, there will be times when you will be impacted very deeply. You may not be able to manage on your own. As your Chief, I am here to tell you it’s OK.”
Presiding over his first graduation as Chief was even more special for Ramer as his daughter is a member of the new class.
Melissa Ramer was a civilian for 12 years before making the leap.
“Becoming a uniformed officer is something I was thinking about and I am happy that I got a chance to do it,” she said. “My dad was surprised when I mentioned it to him and one of the things he told me as I embark on this new career is to keep things simple and do what’s right.”
Deputy Chief Peter Yuen’s son, Ryan Yuen, also graduated.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic,this is the first time since 1987 that the training was held exclusively at the Toronto Police College (TPC).
Many of the new recruits didn’t mind doing the entire 21-week training with Toronto Police instructors.
“I think it was a blessing in disguise that we were allowed to do all our training here because of the virus,” said Nadia Larocca who is going to 22 Division. “Having our officers provide everything, in my opinion, was an asset as they offered not only the provincial curriculum, but a Toronto culture and spin which I thought was very valuable. They also had our interest at heart in making us the best officers because they could end up working with us one day. They really invested a lot of time and effort in us. We believe we had the best training possible.”
Graduating from Queen’s University in 2017 with an undergraduate degree in Religion & Politics, Larocca completed a Master’s in Global Affairs at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.
“When I started at Queen’s, I took Religion because I wanted to learn more about the different cultures and type of people that I may be interacting with in policing,” said the former Queen’s University hockey forward who worked in Risk Management at Deloitte before applying to the Service.
Policing, she pointed out, offers opportunities to lead which she embraces.
“I wanted to be a leader in the community and one of the ways in which you can do that actively is through policing,” Larocca, one of two class valedictorians, said.
She’s joining her boyfriend who has been with the Service for 18 months.
Const. Nicholas Wasylyk has a Master’s in Rehabilitation Sciences and is at 14 Division.
Like Larocca, Courtney Vinet also attended university on a hockey scholarship, worked at Deloitte and was enamoured with the training at TPC.
“Working with the TPS instructors was very, very good,” she said. “They pushed us to our limit and were very supportive. There are some aspects that we missed out on by not going to OPC like meeting other recruits from different Services. From a training perspective, I think we got the best and I feel am better prepared to my job.”
Growing up in Camrose, Alberta, Vinet became interested in policing at a very young age.
“It’s a very small town and the police there were always nice to me,” she said. “They were always out in the community doing something different and that appealed to me. Policing was something I always wanted to be part of, but I waited until it was the right time for me to do so. I am 27 now and it’s important to me that I gave back to the community and make a positive difference wherever I can.”
Completing an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Master’s in Data Analytics at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania, she split four years between Deloitte’s Edmonton and Toronto offices.
She was part of the Artificial Intelligence team.
“I ran all sorts of data analytics and helped companies sort their different problems,” said Vinet who applied to TPS two days before last Christmas. “I worked with CEOs and analysts, crossed different industries with different problems and working styles and, in the process, was able to adapt to certain situations. I think that experience will help me in my new role.”
She’s going to 52 Division.
“I live very close to the Division and I worked in it through my previous employer,” said Vinet. “I am quite familiar with the area.”
Two years into Business & Technology Management studies at Ryerson University, Asim Sheikh quit the four-year program.
“That wasn’t for me,” he said. “I wanted to work with people, so teaching and policing were on my radar as career options. Policing won out because I felt I could make a bigger and very positive impact.”
Through his older brother who is with Peel Regional Police Service, Sheikh got a feel for what the profession offers.
He applied to Peel, Durham and Toronto.
“I worked in my previous job in Toronto, so this was a Service that I really wanted to be part of,” said Sheikh who was the recipient of the Military Veterans Drill & Deportment Award. “I was in the city a lot and I grasped a better understanding of the culture and the diversity that makes Toronto so great.”
He completed the Police Foundations Leadership program at Humber College while working as a Special Constable for Toronto Community Housing for 18 months.
Sheikh is assigned to 13 Division.
Born and raised in Malvern, Ankur Patel considered policing as a career since childhood.
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to do something where I can help people and policing seemed to be the perfect fit,” said the Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute graduate who finished his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto in 2011 and a Master’s in Physiotherapy at McGill University three years later.
“It was through my work as a physiotherapist that I met several police officers and got more of an insight from them into the job. I learnt about the growth that can be derived in the profession and that is what sort of pushed me to apply.”
Patel, who won the Top Academic Award with a 100 per cent mark and is going to 14 Division, said the training, which began in the first week of May, was first-rate.
“It’s hard to compare it to OPC because I have never been there, but the experience here was awesome,” he noted. “We were all here for six months, so we developed a strong bond. This is going to be like my second family. Also, the instructors were amazing with the way they interacted with us and the professional manner in which they delivered the curriculum with a Toronto spin. I think we are better prepared than if we had gone to OPC.”
Toronto Police Services Board Chief Executive Director & Chief of Staff Ryan Teschner thanked the recruits for choosing Canada’s largest municipal police service as their career destination.
“In this role, I have the daily privilege of working with some of the world’s finest law enforcement officers and community safety professionals,” he said. “And I am always mindful of the constant daily sacrifices you make for me, my family and the millions of us who depend on you. You never let your guard down for a minute as you stand guard over us. So, those of us who benefit from your protection should never let our gratitude to you slip or become something we take for granted. So, today and for all the days you do your job with pride, let me say thank you.
“What this comes down is a pact, an unspoken agreement of trust between those in uniform and the magnificent civilians who serve alongside them and the people of Toronto. This trust is the epicenter of our relationship. And, I know that you will safeguard it in the approach you bring to your duties each day, in every call you answer and in the way you interact with those who are facing challenge and difficulty. We depend on you to persevere.”
Stephanie Baccari won the Physical Training Most Improved Award and Kaylah Careen was the Physical Training High Performance Award winner.
Isaiah Henry was the other class valedictorian.
Each recruiting class organizes a fundraiser for a charitable cause.
This class raised $1,900 for Badge of Life Canada, a peer-led volunteer organization dedicated to supporting police and correctional personnel who are dealing with psychological injuries diagnosed from service.
A total of 92 per cent of the new class has completed post-secondary education and 38 per cent speak more than one language.
This is the first time in Toronto Police Service’s history that women make up 50 per cent of the graduating class.