Honouring Work of Women in Policing

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair

Writer/Photographer

32 Division
43 Division
Intelligence Services

Toronto Police Service (TPS) Superintendent Katherine Stephenson is the recipient of the 2024 Ontario Women in Law Enforcement (OWLE) Officer of the Year Award.

The presentation took place on May 3.

A Service member since 2000, Stephenson commands the Intelligence Unit. With adept leadership, she manages a $4.3 million budget and oversees a staff of 285 uniformed and civilian members.

“As the Unit Commander of Intelligence, Katherine has spearheaded numerous transformative projects,” said Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray who nominated her for the award.  “One notable achievement is the establishment of the Intelligence Operations Centre (IOC) where she integrated intelligence processes with traditional investigative responses.

“This initiative has significantly enhanced the Service's ability to respond to major events by providing real-time analysis and support to operational commanders,” she said, of improving the response to demonstrations and major planned events.

In addition to the IOC, Stephenson has led efforts to strengthen strategic analysis and assessment, expanding the civilian analyst cadre to provide high-quality intelligence products that inform Service actions. She has also transformed the Security Section into a proactive investigative unit, enhancing the Service's response to evolving public safety threats and fostering collaboration with international partners like Interpol.

Recognizing the surge in hate crimes amid global events, she has mobilized Intelligence resources to support the Service's response, including reallocating sub-unit priorities and expanding the Hate Crime Unit's mandate.

Beyond her operational duties, Stephenson has represented the Service at various committees, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Lawful Access Advisory Committee where she contributes to shaping national policies on security and intelligence sharing.

Four people stand together holding an award and flowers
Superintendent Katherine Stephenson, second from right, is the recipient of the 2024 Ontario Women in Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award.

Stephenson, who has a degree in Biochemistry, received a message from one of the victims thanking her for the support.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your passion for a stranger,” it read. “I have never had someone fight for me the way you have. No matter what happens today, I am at an amazing place in my life and I am empowered to do whatever I want. I will continue to live my life out loud and you will forever be my angel on this earth. This stranger has become a sister friend.”

Starting at 41 Division where she spent five years, Stephenson was in the Drug Squad for almost four years before joining the Intelligence Unit in covert operations. She also served as a Criminal Investigation Bureau investigator at 55 Division and worked on a Terrorism project before being assigned to the Homicide Squad.

Constable Amanda Frederick, of 43 Division, was honoured with the Laura Ellis Memorial Award.

On her last shift with Toronto Police on February 18, 2002 before transferring to Durham Police Service, Ellis and her partner were responding to a call when their squad car collided with another vehicle at Brimley Rd. and Huntingwood Dr. and struck a hydro pole.

The 31-year-old officer who had just returned from maternity leave died at the scene.

“While on the job for only five years, Laura had a distinct impact on her colleagues and the community,” said her husband Tim Ellis. “She believed in equality, justice and family. All she asked was for you to be honest, forthcoming and true to yourself and your friends.”

Joining the School Resource Officer program a decade ago, Frederick forged lasting connections with the youth in schools within 43 Division, providing mentorship and support that extends far beyond the classroom.

“Amanda’s dedication to community service is unparalleled and her impact on the lives of those she serves in immeasurable,” said Staff Sergeant Ryan Miller, who nominated her for the award. “She embodies the value of compassion, empathy and selflessness, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.”

In 2020, Frederick she became a Neighbourhood Community Officer Unit for Eglinton East. In the role, she identified and addressed the diverse needs of her community through innovative initiatives and collaborative partnerships.

The Make it Merrier event is a testament to her dedication to uplift her community. By partnering with local businesses, she organized a community event that provided essential resources to those in need, while fostering a sense of unity and support within the neighborhood.

She also started an annual Back-to-School Supply Drive and a Prom Suit giveaway.

“Being supported by local businesses, community members and Constable Isabelle Cotton of the Community Partnerships Engagement Unit is very significant to the work I do in the community,” she said. “This is where I receive 99 per cent of the support and they deserve the shout out.”

Her policing journey began in 2002 at 42 Division where she served in the Primary Response Unit. In 2006, she transitioned to 43 Division where she continued to demonstrate her passion for community engagement.

“Amanda cares a lot about the community and is always coming up with new initiatives to enhance police-community relations,” said Cotton.

Three people stand together holding an award and flowers
Sergeant Nora Hammond, centre, was the Bravery Award recipient

Sergeant Nora Hammond, who joined the Service 20 years ago and is assigned to 32 Division, was the Bravery Award recipient.

Responding to multiple 9-1-1 calls reporting a male assailant stabbing people inside a residential apartment building in October 2023, she was the first officer on scene. Assessing the situation with composure, she quickly identified a female victim with a severe stab wound. Despite the gravity of the injury, her swift assessment ensured the victim received immediate attention.

Realizing the imminent danger posed by the attacker, Hammond made the courageous decision to confront the suspect alone. Entering the apartment where the assailant had cornered a male victim, she found herself face to face with the armed assailant. With decisive action, she de-escalated the situation, persuading the attacker to drop the weapon before apprehending him with the assistance of arriving backup.

“Nora's actions exemplify the highest standards of bravery and selflessness,” said her nominator, Superintendent Don Belanger. “Despite facing overwhelming danger, she prioritized the safety of the community above all else, demonstrating impeccable decision-making and unwavering courage throughout the ordeal.”

There were over 160 nominations for the major awards.

In 1999, OWLE started recognizing civilian and sworn members for long service.

Deputy Chief Lauren Pogue and Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray were recognized for 35 years of service.

OPP Inspector Leah Gilfoy, who began her policing career in 1992 with TPS, was the recipient of the Presidential Award.

“Her legacy will continue to inspire generations of law enforcement professionals, embodying the principles of integrity, inclusivity and excellence that define the highest ideals of policing,” said TPS Superintendent and OWLE President Kim O’Toole.

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