New Constables Give Back to Community

Toronto Police College
When Zhen Huo arrived from China a decade ago, he intended to open a restaurant in the city.

His career path, however, changed after the Yonge St. Van Attack on April 23, 2018 that targeted pedestrians. A total of 10 people were killed and 16 injured and irreparable harm caused to their families and the community as a whole.

Huo was at his bartending job downtown when he glanced up and saw the breaking news flash on the television screen.

“I lived in the area where that incident occurred at the time,” he said. “I was shocked. If I wasn’t at work, I might have been hanging out with my friends and it could have been me or one of them hit by that van. That was such a tragedy and I figure I wanted to stand up for my community.”

Huo has felt supported by his community since arriving in Canada and wanted to give back.

“Also, when I came here, I didn’t speak English. It was people in the community and friends who helped me learn the language and encouraged me to complete my diploma in Culinary Arts at George Brown College.”

Huo, who is assigned to 55 Division, joined the Service as a Court Officer two years ago before becoming a uniformed member.

“I learned a lot in that role and it prepared me for this big moment,” he said.

Constable Jingren (Barry) Zhang, of 51 Division, also played a pivotal role in helping Huo to become a police officer.

“When I was bartending, I wasn’t sure I could do policing,” he said. “Barry helped me to realize I have a lot of skills like customer service, problem solving and communication. These are things I didn’t know I have in me.”

In his remarks to the new recruits at the graduation ceremony on February 14, Chief James Ramer expressed confidence in their abilities to serve with professionalism while displaying integrity.

“As you know, it is a privilege to work in policing and to wear our uniform,” he said. “We have the best trained and most competent police officers in Canada who perform their roles in arguably the most difficult and complex environment in the country. We are recognized and respected as a leader in policing because of the quality of our people which now includes all of you.”

Ramer warned the rookies that the job can be challenging and difficult.

“You will be scrutinized for your actions, both in and out of uniform, and you will be held to a higher standard,” he said. “And this is how it should be. My instruction to each and every one of you is to never lose sight of this... As a police service committed to progress, change and reform, we must embrace and live up to these expectations on every shift and every day.

“Our city deserves that commitment from its police service and I know that all of you are up to the challenge and are ideal candidates for this new wave of policing. Policing that is driven by the community for the community. Policing that provides world-class training to equip officers to respond to the complex needs of a large urban city. Policing that is not just reactive, but is always listening and learning.”

A man in TPS uniform at a podium
Chief James Ramer addresses the new constables Photo: Constable Edward Parks

In welcoming the graduates to the police family, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Jim Hart said they are joining an impressive organization filled with dedicated professionals.

“It is a talented and committed team, renowned and respected internationally and as you will find, it is most certainly a family,” he noted. “You should feel honoured and privileged to stand among those who you now join. You arrive at a time when the Board and Service continue to transform and modernize, working with the public to re-imagine what public safety means. It is an exciting and important time for our evolving organization.”

Most times, positive role models influence actions and motivate young people to strive for success.

At North Toronto High School, Arielle Dubissette-Borrice met then Probation Officer Laura McAndrew who impacted her profoundly.

“I saw the positive effect and influence Laura had on young people,” she said. “That showed me that I could also be a mentor for females, particularly Black girls in marginalized communities.”

Policing, Dubissette-Borrice, figured out, would be a perfect career to make that impact.

The former Canadian rugby player and York Lions Assistant Coach, who spent countless hours volunteering in Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods, is thrilled to be a member of Canada’s largest municipal police service.

Dubissette-Borrice, who has an undergraduate degree in Criminology from Western University, applied a year ago.

“I have always had positive relationships with the police and that also played a part in me wanting to be part of this organization,” the former Boys and Girls Club of West Scarborough supervisor pointed out.

Assigned to 51 Division, Dubissette-Borrice is quite familiar with the community.

She attended Market Lane Public School and volunteered at the St. Lawrence Community Centre on the Esplanade. She also joked that her favourite show, the Canadian police drama television series Rookie Blue, was filmed in the Division.

As a youth counselor and harm reduction outreach worker, Shreen Namatalla quickly recognized the value of the work she was doing in the community

“That frontline experience made me realize that I could help in a bigger way,” she said. “That, for me, was policing. You are constantly communicating with the community on a daily basis while also doing something different. That really appealed to me.”

Seven days after putting in her application in February 2021, Namatalla got a response from Toronto Police.

“I had applied to York and Durham in December 2020, but Toronto got back to me almost right away,” she said. “Everything happened so quickly.”

Born in Portugal to parents from Iraq, Namatalla completed a Criminology degree at Ontario Tech University and a Master’s in Public Administration at Queen’s University.

She is going to 41 Division.

After the first fitness training session, Conray Duffus questioned whether he made the right decision to be a police officer.

“It was hard and we sweated a whole lot,” he said. “We did a six kilometer run with the instructor who ran backwards for the entire run, pushups, squats, lunges and planks. It felt like we were there for 10 hours instead of one. It was hard, but I was determined to get through it.”

Policing has always been in Duffus’ dreams.

“I am tall and very respectful of others and people would always tell me I should become a cop or soldier,” he recalled. “I saw the respect that the uniformed officers got and I liked that.”

Migrating from St. Mary’s in Jamaica at age 18, Duffus worked in the fast food industry and as a security guard and completed the Registered Practical Nursing program at Centennial College.

After two years employed in the mental health sector, he applied to TPS.

“I am beyond grateful to get the opportunity to do what I want to do,” said the new recruit, who will start in 53 Division.

Mayor John Tory, who is also a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, attended the graduation.

“This marks the beginning of a Toronto Police Service career that will impact the lives of many,” he told the graduates. “There are not too many jobs where you get to do that in a big city like ours. It requires a great deal of passion for helping people. This job is also about building and maintaining trust. It’s a job that carries with it extraordinary responsibility.”

The graduating class comprised 70 recruits.

John Galligan was the Class Valedictorian while Tyler Heffernan won the High Academic Achievement Award with a mark of 99 per cent.

Robert Haggarth was the recipient of the Gulshan Kassamali Diversity & Inclusion Memorial Award, Christopher Wykes received the Drill, Dress & Deportment honour and Meaghan Hector was honoured with the High Performance Award.

Arnold Chang Jr. was recognized with the Most Improved Fitness Award.

Each recruiting class organizes a fundraiser for a charitable cause.

The class filled a police cruiser of Christmas toys that were delivered to the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club.

People in TPS uniform clapping
New constables at their badge presentation Photo: Constable Edward Parks

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