First impressions are, most times, lasting.
With nearly 12 hours elapsing after Tania Evans autistic brother went missing, the family called 9-1-1.
She was just nine years old at the time when her older brother wandered off, something he was prone to doing.
“This time, he was gone for longer than usual and we were very worried because he didn’t even know how to cross the street,” she said.
Riding in the back of a Toronto police car, she was comforted by officers.
“They were friendly, courteous and understanding,” Evans recounted. “I felt so at ease having them at my side.”
That experience left an indelible imprint on her.
“I wanted to be in a position to help people the same way those officers assisted my family and I thought policing would be the profession that would offer the best opportunity to do that,” said Evans.
She is among 48 recruits who were presented their badge on July 5 and begin their new career this week.
Evans had put her dream of becoming a police officer on the back burner working her way up from Teller to a Senior Project Manager over her 22-year career in the banking sector.
Working at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she thought about changing careers.
“I was at a point in my life when I wasn’t feeling fulfilled with my career,” she said. “I never forgot about policing and I thought now is the time to do this. I didn’t want to regret having not at least try a second time to become a police officer. I didn’t want to ask myself, ‘What if’?
Evans applied in March 2020 and was successful.
Family support was pivotal in helping her to make the career switch.
“There’s no way I could have done this without my mom and husband,” she said. “When I was away at the Ontario Police College, they took care of our twin daughters and our home.”
Evans, who is going to 53 Division, considers the 12-week training she and the other recruits did at OPC as her post-secondary schooling.
“I did some courses while I was in the banking industry,” she said. “But going back into a classroom setting at OPC at age 42 and learning so much was something I really relished.”
The badge presentation ceremony was held at Toronto Police College without an audience of family and friends that would normally pack the gymnasium.
In his address to the class, Chief James Ramer reminded them that answering a call of duty can sometimes, even in the briefest interaction, put them in harm’s way.
“It will become a reflex to put the safety of others above your own,” he said. “This is what makes our citizens and neighbourhoods safer. But as we were reminded Friday with the tragic loss of Constable Jeffrey Northrup, it can also come at a terrible cost and with great sacrifice.”
The veteran officer was killed in the line of duty while attempting to effect an arrest in Toronto City Hall’s underground parking lot.
Ramer said the deceased officer, like many brave officers before him, will forever be defined by his dignity, loyalty and courage.
“Although there are sometimes risks in this profession, there are also great rewards that come with serving your city, supporting your fellow citizens and being a member of the Toronto Police family,” he noted. “So I want to thank you for choosing to become a police officer and for choosing Toronto Police Service. Whether you are a new member, have been members of the Service in other roles or have worked with us in volunteer capacities, I am very happy that you have taken this step.”
Ramer told the graduating class they are becoming police officers at a pivotal moment in policing as the Service is committed to reform.
“This is being done at a time when working respectfully and collaboratively with our communities has never been more important,” he added. “I am confident in your ability to do so. Collectively, you have persevered through a global pandemic, demonstrating dedication to completing your training as a team. This shows me that you do the right thing and have service at your core. You have the skills and temperament to connect with compassion, with each other and with our communities as a group speaking many languages and representing many cultures.
“Individually, you bring your own unique experiences to policing. Whether that experience stems from post-secondary work or previous careers or from relationships you have developed as active members of your communities. You have demonstrated your ability to reflect and grow. As you embark on this rewarding career, take these core values with you. They are not just words on paper. They are a framework to guide you in every decision you make. You are ideal candidates for this new wave of policing.”
Growing up, Alexandru Kis yearned for a bigger circle of friends.
He has found one with Toronto Police.
Born in Romania, Kis spent two years in New York before coming to Canada in 1995.
“Because I moved around a lot, I never had the same friends consistently in my life,” he said. “I grew up wanting to have a large group of people that I can call family and I now have that in policing.”
Graduating from high school in Thornhill, Kis completed the Police Foundations program at Seneca College. He has completed 18 months of the five-year Bachelor of Policing program at Wilfrid Laurier University.
He was a Booking Officer at 14 Division for 20 months before becoming a uniformed officer.
“Initially, I applied for both, but was accepted as a Booker,” said Kis, the older of two siblings, who is returning to 14 Division. “My recruiter advised me I was in a great position to learn from the inside out rather than the outside in. That advice was very valuable as I secured the experience I needed to help me in this new position as a Constable.”
As a teacher in Bangladesh, Masuma Akhter enjoyed working with people.
“The standard of policing in my birth country is very high, so I thought this is the field I would love to be in where I could make a big impact in society,” she said. “I know policing is a challenging career, but I see it as very rewarding also in that you get to help people and make a difference.”
Working with a telecommunications company after coming to Canada in 2015 helped prepare Akhter for her new role.
She is assigned to 53 Division.
“I did a lot of deescalation that meant I dealt with people who were a bit agitated at most times and were looking for immediate solutions,” she noted. “I get along with people very well and that came out while I was in that position.”
Akhter has an undergraduate degree in Fisheries & Marine Resource Technology and two Master’s degrees in Aquaculture, the last being completed with Distinction at Ghent University in Belgium where she spent three years.
Individual awards for outstanding performance during training are presented at graduation ceremonies.
Robert Muff achieved an academic average of 98 per cent to secure the Honour Student Award, Nicole Nielsen and Jacob McNabb won the Physical Training Most Improved Award and Alexander Young was the Physical Training High Performance Award winner.
Joshua Rigg was the recipient of the Drill, Dress & Deportment Award, Marlene Ayoub and Michael Meleca captured the Harry Mayzel Leadership Award and Alex Loosmoore was the winner of the late Gulshan Kassamali Diversity & Inclusion Award.
The Glen Cole Memorial Award was presented to class valedictorians Masuma Akhter and David Ayres.
A member of the British Army for three-and-a-half years, Ayres served with the Parachute Regiment on operational tours in Kosova, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.
He and his wife migrated to Canada in 2018.
“She came here because of a job opportunity in the banking industry and when I learned I could apply as a permanent resident, I did so and was successful,” he said. “I always wanted to be a police officer, but there was no opportunity in South Africa where I was born and raised. When I graduated from high school in 1994, everything was integrating and changing and there was really no space for new applicants. Britain was recruiting Commonwealth citizens, so I applied to join their military.”
Each recruiting class organizes a fundraiser for a charitable cause. The graduating class of 48 raised $2,544 for Sick Kids Foundation.