Honouring Vital Work of Volunteers
Since 2017, Rajat Raj has been volunteering with Toronto Police Service (TPS) and he relishes every moment.
“I want to get into policing and I see this as the perfect stepping stone to learn as I prepare for that role,” he said. “I like to engage with community and I feel there is better way to do that than in a law enforcement capacity. I also enjoy playing team sports and I see myself as being part of a bigger team when I am out with Toronto Police officers in various neighbourhoods around the city doing whatever I am asked to.”
Raj is a member of the 22 Division Rover Crew whose members are students enrolled in the Humber College’s School of Social & Community Services.
Founded by Police Foundations students at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus in 2003, the program is designed to prepare young people for the future by encouraging them to give back to the community while also providing them with an insight into law enforcement.
From helping out at the TPS College with simulator video shoots to community parades, Raj – who has a Criminal Justice degree and is enrolled in an alternative dispute resolution program -- feels the foundation has been laid for him to have a successful TPS career.
He applied late last year to be a uniformed officer.
On April 28, they were recognized at the College.
Volunteers have always been an integral part of policing, dating back to 1834 when the Service had one paid police officer and 14 helpers.
Noting that volunteers are essential to the Service, Chief James Ramer thanked them for their support and commitment to communities and the city.
“As much as we want to be, members of the Service cannot be everywhere all at once, at every community engagement, canvassing every neighbourhood or comforting every victim,” he said. “This is where you support us. Even if it is just extending a smile to someone who needs it, the volunteers we are celebrating tonight are a crucial extension of the services we provide to Torontonians. As Chief, I have spoken many times about the importance of public trust. We cannot do our jobs without it.
“You are the individuals who help bridge the gap between police and residents, who encourage partnerships and who engage with us in constructive dialogue on some of our biggest public safety issues. And your service couldn’t come at a more pivotal time in policing when our officers have been never busier or more engaged and when expanding our presence and strengthening our relationships with communities have never been more important.”
Toronto Police Services Board Executive Director & Chief of Staff Ryan Teschner said the Service’s volunteers help bring community safety and wellbeing to life through their selfless dedication, genuine commitment and enduring hard work.
“We owe you our sincere and constant gratitude,” he said. “Your dedication and generosity enrich our society in many different and unexpected ways. You invigorate our communities and infuse them with kindness. You share information and engage our communities, connecting us to segments we would not ordinarily reach. You demonstrate your caring, compassion and commitment daily through your actions, giving selflessly in so many ways across the city. Put very simply, but summing up the essence of your impact, you make a real and important positive difference.”
Several special awards were presented at the ceremony.
Auxiliary Sergeant Vicky Lai was the recipient of the James Carnegie Memorial Award.
Presented to an Auxiliary member who demonstrates outstanding leadership skills and proven commitment to the community, the award honours the legacy of the organization’s first Auxiliary officer whose community involvement was extensive and distinguished for four decades before his passing 24 years ago.
Auxiliary Officers, who do their volunteering in uniform, assist the Service’s community engagement initiatives, crime prevention programs, special events, parades, searches for missing persons and emergency call outs.
A member of the Auxiliary program since 2005, Lai started at 42 Division and was transferred to 13 Division after her promotion to Sergeant.
In 2017, she completed an astounding 921 hours of volunteer service and, a year later, was assigned to AUXO, a specialized unit that maintains the Service’s fleet of heritage vehicles and drives them to community events across the city.
The Chief’s Award, created this year by the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU) to honour an Auxiliary member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to community service through their involvement in Auxiliary details and community events, was presented to Auxiliary Staff Sergeant Rick Jordan, who has been with the program for the last 16 years.
He was the James Carnegie Memorial Award recipient in 2016.
Six years after launching his volunteer career with the Service at 43 Division, Jordan was transferred in 2012 after being promoted to Sergeant. He received another promotion four years later and remained at 23 Division where he played a key role in the launch of several initiatives. The Andy Code program helps police gain access to residential buildings in an emergency and Clear Zone initiative encourages retailers to create a clear view to a cashier to prevent crime.
He co-chairs the annual Toronto Police Service Auxiliary Toy Drive and is also co-lead on the Toronto Police Crime Waves dragon boat program.
Superintendent Ronald Khan, of 31 Division, nominated their Community Policing Liaison Committee (CPLC) Civilian Co-chair Mark Tenaglia for the John Herra Memorial Award presented to the Volunteer of the Year.
Herra was an Auxiliary member who retired as an Inspector in 1996 after 14 years of community service.
“In the short time that I have been at the Division, I can truly say I have been impressed by the spirit of Mark,” said Khan. “It is rare that such an individual presents himself and opens the hearts of so many people. Mark has the ability to lead and empower members of the CPLC to work together and develop fundraising projects, which are successful.”
A member of the original ‘Make Your Future’ job fair working group, Tenaglia built the program’s web design and assisted in securing funds to ensure it ran smoothly. He also created, designed and supplied flyers and door hangers to invite community members to connect with 31 Division Neighbourhood Community Officers.
“His constant and consistent attention detail and professionalism in everything he touches deserves acknowledgment,” added Khan.
Volunteer Legacy Awards recognizing and celebrating individuals who are shining examples of community power were presented to Ben Lau and Auxiliary Staff Sergeant Eselyn Ince.
Lau, who became an Auxiliary member in 1989 and rose to the rank of Auxiliary Staff Superintendent before retiring, co-chaired the Chinese Community Consultative Committee and has been an ambassador for the Service.
“Ben has helped to bridge the gap between the Chinese community and the police,” said Superintendent Warren Wilson, of 41 Division, who nominated him for the prestigious honour. “He has also increased awareness, providing education on important issues, including traffic safety, hate crime, seniors’ fraud, human trafficking, mental health and gun and gang violence. This shared knowledge helped to prevent crimes, reduce victimization and connect people needing various supports. For decades, Ben has been making a positive difference through his dedication and selfless commitment to volunteering.”
An Auxiliary member since 1991, Ince is also assigned to AUXO, where she manages the deployment of the Service’s heritage vehicles to community events.
During the 2015 Pan Am Games, the registered nurse donated 75 volunteer hours. She was assigned to the Athletes Village prior to the arrival of competitors, and the venues for practice runs for both the Pan Am and Parapan opening ceremonies.
Auxiliary officers with five, 10 and 15 years service were recognized along with CPLC, Community Consultative Committee (CCC) and Youth Community Consultative Committee (CYAC) volunteers who were honoured for five, 10, 15, 25, 30 and 35 years of service at the event that coincided with National Volunteer Week celebrations observed from April 24 to 30.
Francis Godwin, who joined the Auxiliary program in 1978 and is the longest serving volunteer member was also recognized.
Just a few months into the role, he responded to an emergency call to assist at the Mississauga Trail derailment in November 1979. Six years later, he responded to the call for service and assisted stranded civilians after the devastating Barrie tornado that claimed eight lives and destroyed countless homes.
Godwin transferred to AUXO where he is familiar with the operation of the vehicles, his favourite being the 1988 Plymouth which is the car he drove in his early years as an Auxiliary member.
Joanne Dileo, who co-founded the Police Community Partnership 35 years ago that was the forerunner to the CPLC and is the longest serving CPLC volunteer was acknowledged.
Encouraged by former Toronto Police Services Board member Judi Cohen, former City Councillor Betty Disero and then-Chief Bill McCormack, Dileo started volunteering with 13 Division in 1987.
Over the years, she organized community barbecues and clean-up campaigns and acted as a sounding board for officers.
Volunteer Crisis Counsellor Raj Tandon was the recipient of the Victim Services Toronto (VST) Community Service Award.
VST witnessed a 25 per cent increase in calls related to domestic violence during the first four months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020.
“As the agency pivoted to remote services, Raj quickly joined the team to augment frontline services to ensure victims received essential crisis support services,” said VST Interim Executive Director Bobbie McMurrich. “Raj was flexible and adapted to remote work with ease. He is incredibly self-reliant and knowledgeable and a natural leader who went above and beyond to support his fellow volunteers through the transition to remote work. As we now transition volunteers and staff back into the office, he has stepped up again and will be assisting in re-training and mentoring volunteers.”
Multi-faith chaplains were also honoured for five, 10, 15 and 20 years of service and a new community committee was announced, the Jewish Community Consultative Committee was unveiled.
The Auxiliary program was established 66 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel.
Over that time, members have provided countless hours of service during the 2010 G20 Summit, papal visits in 1984 and 2002 during World Youth Day celebrations, at the 2003 Rolling Stones concert and at the sites of the 1962 propane plant explosion in Maple, the 1969 natural gas explosion in Malton and the 1979 trail derailment in Mississauga.