Police officers recognized for excellence

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Having a health care background and family members who have struggled with mental illness makes Sgt. August Bonomo the perfect fit to be the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) co-ordinator.

He was a sports rehabilitation specialist before becoming a police officer 14 years ago.

“I believe there was a calling for me to become a police officer and also to slide into this position,” said Bonomo, who was among 18 Service members presented with Excellence Awards on July 22 at police headquarters.

The award, he said, is significant.

“I believe it represents the work of the men and women of this Service and our dedication to the people of this city, but more importantly our compassion for people who have mental health issues and sometimes illnesses,” said Bonomo who left the sports medicine field after one of his patients was killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

This is the second major award he has received in the last 10 months.

Last September, he was presented with the Mental Health Excellence Award created in 2016.

Assigned to the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit (CPEU), Bonomo has created flourishing partnerships with hospital directors, mental health legal experts, educators and practitioners, providing direct services.

The Community Partnerships and Engagement Unit works with a number of internal and external stakeholders to oversee mental health issues in our communities.

“We are incredibly proud of the commitment and collaborative partnerships that have been forged between participating hospitals, mental health agencies and the TPS to develop mental health strategies, training and best practices,” said A/Supt. Stacy Clarke who is the CPEU Unit Commander. “Sgt. Bonomo is a passionate officer who continues to advocate on behalf of our Service as our MCIT Coordinator. He is routinely called upon as the ‘Subject Matter Expert’ in several areas of mental health. I am delighted to know that he is receiving this award and he is absolutely deserving of it.”

In 2018, he was the driving force to establish a joint hospital and police committee that allows for the development of memorandums of understanding and protocols for communication, defining roles and responsibilities and sharing of information while respecting privacy laws.

“August has been afantasticworking partner and someone who is willing to challenge the health care system where needed,” said MCIT Project Manager Leah Dunbar.

The other Toronto Police Excellence Award winners were Sgts. Michael Fonseca, David Lim and Royce MacDonald, Det. John Margetson and Consts. Joanne Tawton, David Manserra, Dale Swift, Alexandre Poltavets, Richard Slater, Todd Garbutt, Brian McFayden, David Monteiro, ZeljkoKatanic, Nathalie Urbas and Sukhjit Gill.

Business and Civilian Excellence Awards were also presented at the 53rd annual awards ceremony.

Man in a business suit and two men in police uniforms stand on the stair landing inside a large atrium
Business Excellence Award winner Sgt. Brett Moore with Chief Mark Saunders and TPSB Chair Jim Hart Photo: Ron Fanfair

Early last year, the Command Team directed Traffic Services to co-ordinate a Service-wide enforcement campaign intended to highlight recent changes in the legislation and to educate motorists about the social costs related to distracted driving.

Assigned the task of co-ordinating the campaign, Moore and Crews drafted an operational plan that allowed for officers to be deployed where they were needed the most to conduct enforcement.

With the assistance of the Fleet & Materials Unit, they secured unmarked vehicles and partnered with the Toronto Transit Commission to deploy officer observers on streetcars and buses. Their role was to relay the information on offenders to patrol officers on parallel routes.

The precise and targeted enforcement resulted in 670 motorists being charged.

Now a Detective in Traffic Services Investigative Unit, Moore said the award is a great honour and it elevates the work Traffic Services is doing to keep city streets safe.

“I think it really sends a message to other officers, especially in Traffic, that it may seem like a Traffic campaign and a bit mundane, but when you really throw a few extra innovative things at it, like partnerships and the media, you can have real impact to do much more than just write tickets,” he said. “It is about getting out messaging. That’s the one thing I have learnt. Trying new things and meeting new people work.

“One of the things we leveraged was a lot of miscommunication and we were really trying to get the media onboard and provide opportunities for them to see, under the police line tape, what we do and what’s going on.”

Crews retired earlier this year.

Supt. Scott Baptist said the officers deserve the accolade.

“These officers do incredible work every day and they are great examples of our unit and the fact that Traffic Services are out there doing their best every single day,” the Traffic Services & Parking Enforcement Unit Commander said. “It’s good to see our people get recognized.”

Penny Rivers, the 51 Division Station Duty Operation, was awarded the Civilian Excellence Award.

While taking a phone call from an officer on November 15, 2018, regarding a man who had daily conditions to sign in at 51 Division, she learned he was wanted by police for threatening to go to several schools in the Sarnia and Windsor area to kill staff and students.

When the man attended the station, he was arrested and the phone used to make the threats was located in his pocket.

Schools in the Sarnia and Windsor areas that were locked down re-opened after Toronto Police confirmed the man’s arrest.

In September 2019, Consts. Benjamin Schneider and Kristine Kiss were on patrol in 22 Division when they responded to a fire call.

“We went up to the fifth floor and found a man inside an apartment, so we went in and just pulled him out,” said Kentucky-born Schneider who served in the United States Army for four-and-a-half years and was awarded several commendations for his service in Iraq, Germany and South Korea.

A man in a business suit, two men and one woman in police uniform, stand on the stair landing inside a large atrium
Chief Mark Saunders and TPSB Chair Jim Hart with award recipients Consts. Benjamin Schneider and Kristine Kiss Photo: Ron Fanfair

Kiss, who joined the Service five years ago, said they arrived nearly five minutes before the Fire Department showed up.

“We were in the hallway trying to call him out, but he didn’t initially respond,” she said. “The apartment was totally engulfed in smoke and we didn’t know if he passed out. That’s when we decided to go in.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual awards ceremony held every May at the Toronto Region Board of Trade was postponed.

Chris Worth, the awards Volunteer Committee Chair for the last nine years, said the committee decided to present the awards before Chief Mark Saunders retirement on July 31.

“To each of the recipients and to each member of the Service, I want to thank you for your ongoing commitment to the safety, security and well-being of the citizens of this city,” he said. “This is my 21st year being associated with this event and every year, I am heartened and encouraged by the acts of bravery, humanitarism, superior investigative skills and outstanding policing that you all embody every day. Thanks to all of you for doing what you do as it makes a difference.”

Worth singled out the Chief for his unwavering leadership thoughtfulness and solid determination to serve the city to the very best of his ability.

Saunders spent 37 years with TPS.

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