Off-Duty Foot Pursuit Earns Officer of the Year

By Brent Smyth

Brent Smyth


Office of the Chief
Professional Standards

Constable Igor Zdrazhko was recognized as Police Officer of the Year for his selfless effort to run down and arrest an armed robbery suspect who fired at him during a foot pursuit.

“It was dark, I didn’t know where it would go, but I knew I had to do it,” he said, of chasing after two men who attempted a carjacking moments earlier.

He had been off-duty after finishing his shift, stopping to get some food before returning home. 

It was then he noticed two men walking around the plaza and looking into cars, before walking towards a gas station. He soon heard yelling and saw the two men run away. It is alleged the two men had attempted a carjacking at gunpoint before the car drove off. 

Zdrazhko pursued on foot as the men hopped a fence, then turned his focus to one man when they split up. He issued the police command to stop, which is when the man subsequently threatened to shoot Zdrazhko, who was unarmed. 

“When I was running, only one thing was on my mind. This man is armed, and he must be stopped.”

The man did shoot, however it undeterred Zdrazhko, who continued his pursuit, eventually catching and tackling the man, before arresting him with the only police gear in his possession, his handcuffs. 

Zdrazhko, who came to Canada in 2017 after working as a lawyer in Ukraine, stressed how thankful he is for the Toronto Police Service to have given him his opportunity to serve the public. 

“When we take this uniform off, we live the same lives as the people in the community, and I’m happy to be someone who can make people feel safe. I’m really proud to be a TPS officer and it's a big honour for me to serve the beautiful city of Toronto, and call myself a part of this community.”


Police officer has a portrait taken holding an award
Police Officer of the Year Award winner Igor Zdrazhko Photo: Glenn Dextras


The 56th annual Police Excellence Awards, held at Hotel X on May 11, featured 10 stories of police officers who put themselves in harm’s way, showed compassion and dedication to duty. Zdrazhko was named Police Officer of the Year by the panel of police personnel, journalists and community members. Toronto Police Service Civilian member Group Leader Randall Brenham, who rose to the challenge presented by the pandemic, was also honoured with the Civilian Excellence Award.

Chief Myron Demkiw recognized the loss of Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Eric Mueller at the beginning of his remarks.

“As a policing family, we are devastated by yet another senseless act of violence — but we must continue to stand united,” Chief Demkiw said. “Words cannot describe our grief that is being felt across this province. But I know all our hearts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of the fallen officer and the two others who were injured.”

Chief Demkiw said the event that recognizes excellence in policing reminds us of the risks of the work but also the strength of the bonds in policing.

“While it reminds us of the inherent dangers of our work, so too does it remind us of the strength of our policing family, of the value being there for one another not only for occasions like this one, but always. And most especially in those moments of adversity, loss and sorrow.”

He thanked the recipients of the awards as Chief and lifelong resident of Toronto.

“I see you show up each and everyday to ensure the safety of our communities; I respect you for your selfless service to others; and I honour you for providing hope and help to our residents, when they need it the most,” the Chief said.



Police Chief speaks to a crowd
Chief Demkiw addresses the crowd at the Police Excellence Awards Photo: Brent Smyth



And while these were extraordinary acts being recognized, Chief Demkiw was quick to point out members across the Service make impactful differences on a daily basis across the city.

“Being a police officer and serving our communities is not just what you do, it’s who you are.”

Chief Demkiw was joined by Attorney General Doug Downey, Inspector General of Policing of Ontario Ryan Teschner as well as Toronto Police Services Board members Nadine Spencer and Lisa Kostakis.

Kostakis said policing is a call to duty.

"These are police officers and civilian members who rise above their already demanding day-to-day activities.  They take professionalism to a new level.  They go above and beyond to maintain and enhance the proud reputation of the Toronto Police Service," she said.

"The Toronto Police Services Board is extremely proud of each one of them.  I can say to the friends and families of award recipients gathered here, you, too, ought to be extremely proud as you watch them being honoured today."

Toronto Police Association President Jon Reid called the recipients heroes.

“But I can also tell you that none of them will call themselves heroes. We may call them that – because they are – but the truly remarkable trait that each of them possess is humility,” Reid said. “They will tell you, quite simply, they were just doing their jobs. They are the true embodiment of what it means to be in service to others and they are true representatives of our police family.”

Beyond stories of policing excellence Fleet and Materials Management Hanna Stores Group Leader Randall Brenham was this year’s recipient of the Civilian Excellence Award.

Normally tasked with outfitting Toronto Police Service members with the uniforms and equipment needed to do their job, he was tasked with the unprecedented responsibility for sourcing, purchasing, inventorying and distributing all the PPE required by the Service when COVID struck.

For more than two years, he managed daily meetings with the Service’s Emergency Management and Public Order team, the City of Toronto Emergency Operations Centre and other TPS and City units. 

His actions helped keep members of the public safe, as well as enhance the safety and informativeness of his colleagues. 



A man stands with an award while people clap for him
Group Leader Randall Brenham won the Civilian Excellence Award for his tireless COVID work Photo: Brent Smyth



Police Officer Excellence Stories:

Constables Michael Harris and Amandeep Malhi

In July 2021, Police Constables Michael Harris and Amandeep Malhi – two Downsview-Roding Neighbourhood Community Officers (NCOs) – were patrolling Sheridan Mall when they noticed a despondent woman with a baby seated on a bench.

The officers stopped to check on the woman and in their conversation learned that the woman had spent the last few months in shelters with her child after fleeing human trafficking.

The officers immediately connected the woman with members of the Human Trafficking Enforcement Team (HTET) who made it their first priority to get help for the woman through Victim Services Toronto. In the ensuing months, she provided a statement against her two traffickers who had moved her through the sex trade throughout Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia, suffering egregious and inhumane conditions.

The HTET made an arrest in the case and during the conducting of a search warrant also recovered precious sentimental items including the ashes of the woman’s grandparents and family photo albums.

A month later, Police Constables Michael Harris and Amandeep Malhi again contacted the HTET investigators regarding yet another woman who had disclosed that she too had been trafficked. Police Constables Michael Harris and Amandeep Malhi had spent several months establishing a connection with the woman before she finally opened up about her victimization.

This woman was able to connect with supports including a drug rehabilitation program as she had become addicted while being trafficked. An investigation into her traffickers resulted in multiple arrests as well as the seizure of a loaded handgun and drugs. It is also alleged one of her traffickers had been involved in a shooting.

If not for the compassionate work by Police Constables Michael Harris and Amandeep Malhi, these women would not have received the support they needed in their recovery, the traffickers would not have been the subject of investigation, and all of these traffickers would have likely gone on to victimize others.


Sergeant Allan Racette and Constables Akin Gul and Lloyd Samuell

It was in October 2022 when police were called to a home for an armed man in a mental health crisis who had locked himself in his room with a handgun and shotgun telling his parents he would hurt himself if police came to help.

Sergeant Allan Racette took control at the scene creating a tactical plan with responding officers, establishing a perimeter, and then entering the home with Police Constables Akin Gul and Lloyd Samuell, as other officers backed them up at both entrances to the home.

The man’s parents let officers know where he was, and Sergeant Allan Racette called out to the man only to hear the distinct sound of a gun racking, potentially indicating that the man was putting a bullet in the chamber. Sergeant Allan Racette looked up the dimly-lit stairs again with a flashlight and saw the man holding a handgun at his side and staring ahead. Officers advised the dispatcher of the situation who contacted the Emergency Task Force (ETF) to attend.

Gul contained the man, training a gun on him as he began walking down the steps at the officers. At the same time, Racette shielded the parents and ensured they were in a place of safety outside.

Police Constable Lloyd Samuell debriefed the parents, obtaining from them further information on how to deescalate the situation as well as details regarding the layout of the home and where other firearms were stored.

Sergeant Allan Racette made the decision to disengage with the man, removing all officers from inside the house and briefed the attending ETF Team Six. The team’s incredible efforts, which included engaging multiple tactics and mental health experts, resulted in the man surrendering at 1 p.m. the next day.

The impressive, coordinated, and compassionate actions of the front-line officers that day, as well as the ensuing response is indicative of the training, planning, leadership and courage that are necessary to find peaceful resolutions.


Constables Jason Brady, Cody McIntosh and Darryl Norman

In April 2020, police were called by a man reporting that a neighbour was banging at his apartment door while holding a large knife. The responding officers strategically formed a cohesive plan before confronting the man, with Police Constable Darryl Norman leading the way with a less-lethal shotgun, Police Constable Cody McIntosh equipped with a conducted energy weapon (CEW or Taser) at the ready, and Police Constable Jason Brady armed with the last resort, a handgun.

The officers found the man holding a large butcher knife above his shoulders. Ignoring the officers’ commands to drop the knife he walked quickly toward them while the officers retreated to create space.

As the officers continued to make commands to drop the knife, the man closed the gap to 15 feet. Police Constable Darryl Norman pointed his less-lethal shotgun at him. Undeterred, the man taunted the officers to shoot him.

First, Police Constable Darryl Norman fired two bean bags into the man’s stomach to no avail. Police Constable Cody McIntosh then deployed his CEW but it didn’t stop the man from advancing. Police Constable Darryl Norman then fired two more bean bags into the man’s stomach with little effect.

Police Constable Jason Brady, aware he had a concrete wall at the man’s back that would stop any errant bullet, fired his handgun, striking the man. Nevertheless, the man continued his advance. Police Constable Cody McIntosh deployed his CEW again, which slowed the man’s advance. Police Constable Jason Brady then fired a second round from his handgun. This time, the man fell to the ground, still holding the knife. The officers were subsequently able to make the arrest. The man survived.

Through the development of a thoughtful and coordinated plan that prioritized minimizing harm, these three courageous and quick-thinking officers were able to stop a man experiencing a mental health crisis charging at them with a knife by strategically and successfully using all the use-of-force options available to them.


Detective-Constable Daniel Sunghing

Detective Constable Daniel Sunghing is being recognized for skilfully leading a massive and complex investigation by Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (CYAC) investigators into a sexual assault that took place in a high school locker room which was filmed and subsequently circulated among students.

The investigation progressed quickly, consisting of over 60 interviews with interviews with students, teachers, coaches, staff as well as photo line-ups; review of video surveillance, preparation of warrants and actioning of the many investigative leads and tips.

The investigation led to the arrest of six youths who were charged with gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, and assault. One offender was also charged with making child pornography because of the cellphone video recorded.

The initial investigation subsequently led to the discovery of other incidents of varying severity, including incidents of bullying and assault that resulted in further charges as well as students being suspended and expelled. In addition, the investigation uncovered two other incidents of sexual assault resulting in additional charges being laid.

Five of the offenders pled guilty to a variety of charges including sexual assault with a weapon, and one of these offenders also pled guilty to making child pornography. They received probation and were required to provide a DNA sample for the sexual offender registry. One offender pled not guilty and after a lengthy trial was found guilty, resulting in probation and the requirement to provide a DNA sample.

Detective Constable Daniel Sunghing demonstrated tremendous perseverance, skill and dedication during a challenging and complicated investigation, maintaining a positive working relationship with the Crown Attorneys, victims and school community throughout, and resulting in a successful outcome.


Constable Phillipe LaBarre

On July 17, 2021, Police Constable Phillipe LaBarre was among officers to respond to an apartment fire on Kennedy Road.

Already close to the scene, he arrived in minutes to find the 16th floor hallway filled with thick, black smoke. Police Constable Phillipe LaBarre pounded on apartment doors to alert residents to the danger and ensure they evacuated.

Within just seven minutes of receiving the call, Police Constable Phillipe LaBarre found an insecure door and pushed into the apartment where he found an active fire and an unconscious man. Acting quickly, he dragged the man into the hallway to safety.

Shortly after, Toronto Fire Services firefighters and additional police officers arrived on scene. The fire was extinguished and the residents were examined by Toronto Paramedic Services paramedics. This included Constable Phillipe LaBarre who had suffered smoke inhalation.

Fortunately, everyone involved in this incident survived their injuries.

Police Constable Phillipe LaBarre is recognized for his quick and selfless response to an extremely dangerous situation. Through his courageous and decisive action, he helped to ensure the safety of everyone on the scene, undoubtedly saving lives.


Constable Samantha Fermo

On October 11, 2021, a motorcyclist lost control of his motorcycle and struck a vehicle along Lake Shore Boulevard West. He was thrown off his bike and suffered life-threatening injuries, including a severed lower limb and heavily injured left arm.

Police Constable Samantha Fermo, who was off-duty, was out for a walk along the lakefront when she witnessed the collision and quickly ran to help the victim.

Police Constable Samantha Fermo immediately began to administer First Aid and provided vital information to the 9-1-1 call-taker in order to initiate a quick emergency response all the while tending to the victim. Body-worn camera footage from the 14 Division officers who arrived on scene a short time later shows Police Constable Samantha Fermo as being remarkably calm, briefing officers through clear and regular communication, as well as continuously engaging with the victim to keep him alert.

Police Constable Samantha Fermo was assisted by an off-duty nurse and firefighter, as well as a retired police officer, who were also in the area at the time.

The motorcyclist was rushed to hospital with a police escort. Despite losing a significant amount of blood, he survived, no doubt, partly due to Police Constable Samantha Fermo’s lifesaving efforts.

Police Constable Samantha Fermo is honoured for demonstrating incredible selflessness and dedication to duty in her proactive response to help to save a life.


Constables Johnny Amatuzio, Steevens Audige, Rebecca Gaurdreau, Steven Hawley, Mihail Kochankov and Laura MacKasey

On May 13, 2021, Police Constables Johnny Amatuzio, Steevens Audige, Rebecca Gaudreau, Steven Hawley, Mihail Kochankov and Laura MacKasey arrived on scene to find security guards holding a man outside an eighth-floor window to prevent him from falling.

First, Police Constable Kochankov grabbed hold of the man’s arm as the man thrashed around exclaiming, “let me go.” Police Constables Audige and Amatuzio smashed out a nearby window placing a blanket over the broken glass. Police Constable Amatuzio grabbed the man’s other forearm.

Police Constable MacKasey then wrapped her body around the leg of Police Constable Kochankov, using her body weight to secure him as security staff held onto Police Constable Amatuzio who was in the same precarious position.

Police Constable Hawley skilfully coordinated the plan from the ground, directing officers to the floor below. Police Constables Audige and Gaudreau broke additional windows in order to grab hold of the man’s legs.

The man successfully broke free temporarily when the combination of blood and sweat on the man’s arms loosened Police Constable Amatuzio’s grip. Thinking fast, Police Constable Amatuzio quickly pulled himself back inside, ran down to the unit below, smashing the glass with his bare hands and rejoined his team in holding the man.

When the man broke free of Police Constables Kochankov, Kochankov and MacKasey ran to the rest of the team to pull the man inside with one concerted effort as the man continued to push himself away from officers using the outside wall.

Eventually, the man was apprehended under the Mental Health Act.

This team of fast-thinking and adaptable officers is being recognized for saving this man’s life. Their daring rescue is a tremendous demonstration of both courage and compassion.



Sergeant Douglas Surphlis

On May 5, 2022, now-retired Sergeant Douglas Surphlis was off-duty driving on Highway 404 in Markham when he saw an SUV driving erratically ahead of him. The SUV collided with another vehicle and then came to rest on the right shoulder embankment.

Sergeant Doug Surphlis pulled over behind the vehicle and called 9-1-1 as the vehicle burst into flames. Sergeant Doug Surphlis found a man trapped in the vehicle and worked diligently with other motorists to free the man, pulling him to safety nearby.

A large sum of alleged counterfeit currency was found inside and outside the vehicle and York Regional Police officers placed the driver in investigative detention. The driver himself, told the officers that he would not be alive had it not been for Sergeant Doug Surphlis’ actions. He, along with a number of other unknown individuals who assisted on the scene, intervened in an extremely dangerous situation to save the driver’s life.

For acting decisively to respond in the face of great risk without hesitation or fear of injury to himself, Sergeant Doug Surphlis is recognized for his extraordinary bravery and his enduring commitment to protecting the public resulting in saving a man’s life.


Constable Igor Zdrazhko

Just after midnight on September 10, 2022, Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko, who was off-duty, stopped at a plaza near Morningside Avenue and Staines Road to get some food after work.

While waiting for the food, Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko observed two men with hoodies over their heads walking around the plaza looking into cars and then heading towards a nearby gas station. He subsequently heard yelling and saw the men run away. It is alleged that at this time, the men had attempted to steal a vehicle at gunpoint before it drove off.

When both men jumped a nearby fence and headed for a dark open field, Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko pursued them on foot, focusing on one man as they split up. Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko then issued the police command to stop, and the man told him that he would shoot him. He then shot at Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko, who was unarmed.

Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko caught up to the man and tackled him to the ground, ripping the gun from his grasp, as the man continued to fight with him. Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko placed the man under arrest using the only police equipment he had on him – his handcuffs.

Back-up officers arrived to find the handgun loaded with six other rounds.

Police Constable Igor Zdrazhko is recognized for his keen observation skills, his unrelenting commitment to duty, and his brave and selfless efforts to keep the city safe.


Sergeant Matthew Daigle and Constable Harpreet Sahota

On the morning of June 30, 2022, Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle responded to call for a person with a knife at the Albion Mall, threatening to hurt patrons.

Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle arrived to find a man brandishing a large machete in the parking lot just outside the mall, still threatening passerbys. As Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle engaged with him through tactical communication to drop his knife, the man became more agitated.

The man then ran from Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle along Finch Avenue West as the officers gave chase. The man then reached into his backpack and pulled out a black handgun, pointing it at Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle. The officers sought cover, and at one point, they saw a magazine drop from the handgun. The man continued an aggressive rant towards the officers, while, again, running along the sidewalk.

The man, once again, lunged at Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle with the machete as they tried to maintain a safe distance and persuade him to drop the weapon.

Sergeant Matthew Daigle deployed his Conducted Energy Weapon, taking the man to the ground, and Police Constable Harpreet Sahota was able to secure the weapons – the machete and what turned out to be a replica handgun.

Police Constable Harpreet Sahota and Sergeant Matthew Daigle are commended for their impressive courage, their coordinated teamwork, and their compassionate approach, to ensure the safety of both the man in crisis, and those community members in the vicinity.


Constables Adam Veleke and Alexander Young

On November 4, at approximately 10 p.m., Police Constables Adam Veleke and Alexander Young were in their scout car near the Dufferin Gate Loop, when a call came in that a woman in crisis was on the banks of Lake Ontario threatening suicide.

Police Constables Adam Veleke and Alexander Young had information that the woman had a bike which they located by a secluded beach. They saw a woman near the water and as they approached her, she entered the water.

Knowing the Marine Unit was also attending the call, the officers followed the woman into the cold water maintaining contact with her as she swam away from them, at points, fully submersing herself.

Eventually, Police Constables Adam Veleke and Alexander Young’s negotiation was successful, convincing the woman to take a flotation device thrown to her by Marine Unit officers, and swim back to shore. The woman was apprehended under the Mental Health Act, and taken to hospital.

Police Constables Adam Veleke and Alexander Young are commended for their selfless and enduring commitment to saving a life, braving the freezing waters of Lake Ontario to ensure a woman’s safety, through their caring and dedicated efforts.



Constable Peter Eckersall

On November 14, 2022, after 3 p.m., a 17-year-old boy ran into the administrative office of a high school before collapsing to the ground.

41 Division officers responded and found the boy suffering from five stab wounds. They then began administering First Aid.

Police Constable Peter Eckersall checked the victim for vital signs, and realized the victim was gasping for air. He immediately began performing chest compressions until the arrival of paramedics. Police Constable Peter Ecksersall then briefed paramedics who transported the boy to a trauma hospital.

At the hospital, doctors operated on the boy, manually massaging his heart, and following up with surgery to repair stab wounds to the heart, lung and liver. Fortunately, the victim survived.

Had it not been for the quick intervention and decisive, life-saving actions of Police Constable Peter Eckersall, the young victim would likely not have survived. Police Constable Peter Eckersall is being commended for his pivotal and impressive actions, that resulted in this young man surviving his grievous injuries.


Civilian Excellence Award: Group Leader Randall Brenham

Fleet and Materials Management Hanna Stores Group Leader Randall Brenham is normally in charge of outfitting Toronto Police Service members with the uniforms and equipment they need to do their job.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the world was left unprepared to source essential items including Person Protective Equipment (PPE).

Group Leader Randall Brenham was tasked with the enormous and unprecedented responsibility for sourcing, purchasing, inventorying, and distributing all the PPE required by Service members in order to keep them and the public safe.

The 25-year veteran took on the assignment with his usual professionalism, swiftly coordinating the effort.

Over the course of more than two years, he engaged in daily meetings with the Service’s Emergency Management and Public Order team and many other units, as well as the City of Toronto Emergency Operations Centre and other City departments. He not only kept his colleagues informed but worked with them to create long-term strategies to source supplies.

Group Leader Randall Brenham is recognized for his unwavering dedication and leadership over the pandemic.

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