Caring for Community they Serve

51 Division
Going above the call of duty is what Constables Farzad Ghotbi and Mircea Biga do best.

For the past three years, they have been an integral party of the Muslim Welfare Centre’s Regent Park Sunday Meals program as Neighbourhood Officers.

The 51 Division officers also deliver meals to seniors, many of whom have disabilities, provide backpacks for school children returning to the classroom in September, collect and distribute clothing for needy residents, mentor challenged youth and facilitate a fitness program for vulnerable seniors.

When Ghotbi and Biga learned that a homeless man was waiting for housing for over a decade after being evicted from Toronto Community Housing because of language barriers, they stepped in and helped him secure accommodation and furniture.

They surprised two young kids with a Christmas gift of a mattress and helped a single mother living with a disability by picking up her kids from after-school programs and ensuring they didn’t miss doctors’ appointments.

When it was brought to the officers’ attention that the family’s television was broken, they bought a new one with their money and delivered it to the home.

Ghotbi and Biga were rewarded for their selfless actions with Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI)Public Heroes Awards presented on April 25 at the Paradise Banquet & Convention Centre in Concord.

Firaaz Azeez, the Muslim Welfare Centre Special projects manager, nominated the officers for the award, noting they care deeply about the community they serve.

“They have demonstrated their commitment to public safety and the well-being of our community through their altruistic actions, dedication, passion and community engagement over the years,” Azeez said. “They are constantly thinking about improving the lives of people in our community.”

Ghotbi and Biga spent five years working together as part of the Service’s Neighbourhood Officer program to develop inclusive and cooperative strategies that resolve issues and build trust and partnerships while promoting community safety.

“This recognition is a huge honour for us,” said Biga, who joined the Service 12 years ago and is now part of the 51 Division Criminal Investigation Bureau. “When we were assigned to the neighbourhood, we faced many challenges as there was a huge disconnect between residents in the community and the police. In trying to immerse ourselves in the community we had to be consistent and genuine and when they saw that, trust was built and that has led to the success we are having.

“We are at a stage now where people call us on our personal cell phones, they talk to us about how their children are doing and they seek advice from us if they see that their kids are heading down the wrong path. We are there as consultants and advisers.”

Ghotbi said it took over two years for the officers to gain the residents’ trust.

“Once the ice was broken and they bought into what we were trying to accomplish, they jumped on board,” he said. “We brought the stakeholders together, discussed the issues and came up with workable solutions. Previously, we talked about things, but we couldn’t commit to solutions. Now, we promise to deliver and we do so for a community that’s very diverse.”

Supt. Peter Moreira, the 51 Division Unit commander, and S/Supt. Mark Barkley attended the celebration.

“We are very proud of Farzhad and Mircea,” said Moreira. “They work tirelessly in the community each and every day making a substantial difference. They are very visible and they receive a lot of valuable information that helps us at the enforcement end. It assists us with working to keep our community safe.”

In its ninth year, the Public Heroes Awards recognize cops, firefighters and paramedics for their outstanding work.

The IDI is a non-profit group that seeks to promote social cohesion through interfaith and intercultural cooperation, tolerance and dialogue, by sharing differences and similarities through various forums.

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