Recruit Graduation Sparks New Beginnings

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair

Writer/Photographer

Much more than a collection of clothing, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) uniform symbolizes a commitment to respecting, serving and protecting communities, Chief Myron Demkiw told the new uniformed officers at their graduation ceremony on May 27.

“Throughout your training, you participated in intense scenarios, made split second decisions, learned de-escalation techniques and experienced first-hand the positive impact you can have on the lives of the people of Toronto,” he pointed out. “You have demonstrated that you have what it takes to be entrusted with the immense responsibilities and distinct honour of being a Toronto Police officer.

“I know you will connect with compassion and treat everyone equitably as you selflessly serve the people who live, work, play and pray in Toronto. Your engagement with our communities and your commitment to our core values will support us in building and, in some cases, rebuilding trust in and within the Toronto Police Service.”

Shortly after becoming Chief in December 2022, Demkiw visited the recruit class at the time and asked them several questions, including what they wanted him to speak about at their graduation.

Police officer salutes officers marching past
Chief Demkiw watches the march past at the recruit grad Photo: Brent Smyth

Some said they wanted him to speak to the families and friends who supported them while others asked him to share what he knows now that he wished he had known when he started his policing career over three decades ago.

The Chief shared three important lessons he wished he had known when he joined the Service before addressing their families and friends.

“It is important to seek first to understand before you seek to be understood,” he told them. “Continuous learning and education will help enhance your knowledge skills and abilities as a police leader and there is immense value in consistently prioritizing and practicing self-care. Reflecting on my own career, I can pinpoint specific periods when I didn’t prioritize self-care. And those mistakes had an impact on both my personal and professional life.”

To their families and friends, the Chief promised the Service will take care of their loved ones.

“When you leave here today, I want you to remember that your favourite officer received some of the highest calibre training in policing, your favourite officer is a member of our police family and, by extension, you are also now part of our police family and your favourite officer’s health, safety and well-being is and will always be my priority,” he added. 

A total of 47 per cent of the graduating class of 116 speak at least one language other than English.

Toronto Police Service Board (TPSB) Chair Ann Morgan said their diversity mirrors the city.

“And in it lies our formidable strength,” she noted. “The quality of our Service is truly strengthened when the diversity of our great city is reflected in those who police it. Through you, we can reach out to our different communities and neighbourhoods, speak to community members in their home languages, create and fortify relationships and thus enhance our ever-important partnership with the public – the critical key to all we do.

“As our newest members, we welcome your contributions as to how we can serve the public most effectively, most efficiently and most compassionately, dedicated to delivering police services, in partnership with our communities, to keep Toronto the best and safest place to be.”

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow inspects the new recruits
Mayor Olivia Chow takes part in the recruit inspection Photo: Brent Smyth

Jaspreet Minhas comes from a family of police officers.

Most of the male members are retired, including her grandfather who was a major influence in her life in North India.

“He is the best cop I have ever seen,” boasts Minhas. “As a kid, his splendid uniform and very nice squad car impressed me. When I grew older, he would tell me stories about the job, adding there are good and bad people in the world.”

In India, women are mainly relegated to administrative jobs to protect them from frontline policing.

Minhas knew that, but she still aspired to be in a law enforcement career.

To appease her family, she completed an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Science before moving to Canada in 2018.

With Dad wanting his daughter to continue her studies, she did a Master’s in Food Science at Centennial College.

During that time, Minhas did extensive volunteering.

She volunteered at a vaccination clinic in Peel during the pandemic, at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and with Victim Services Peel.

Though a Halton resident, Toronto Police was the only Service she applied to.

“At Centennial, I engaged with police officers and the conversations were interesting and refreshing,” Minhas pointed out. “That was when I said I wanted to be one of them. When my family realized that was what I wanted for a career and there was no turning back, they suggested I apply to Halton. I politely declined. Spending a lot of time in Toronto attending school, I also saw the opportunity to engage with a diverse community. This is where I wanted to be.”

She is assigned to 31 Division.

Growing up in the Philippines, Jordan Ong looked up to his maternal grandfather who was a Judge.

“He was passionate about helping people and I wanted to be in a career where I could do the same,” the youngest of three siblings said. “That was when I started thinking about the military or police.”

Ong completed the Police Foundations program at Humber College and was a 22 Division Rover before applying to the Service in early 2023. He also worked as a security officer in Fairview Mall and at Sunnybrook Hospital.

“I wanted to get all the experience I could before I made the big move to become a police officer,” he added.

Ong is assigned to 31 Division.

Born and raised in east Scarborough, Omar Karimi had positive interactions with Toronto Police officers in his childhood days.

One of them stands out.

Two police officers shake hands
A new police constable gets his badge from Chief Demkiw Photo: Brent Smyth

“While walking with my mother to kindergarten at around age four, a police officer ‘high-fived’ me and put a little sticker on my hand,” recounted Karimi. “That was one of my earliest interactions with city cops and it stuck with me.”

In high school, he was a Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) member assigned to 55 Division in the summer of 2017.

“That was a great experience as I learnt more about what policing entails,” Karimi said.

Graduating from York University with a Criminology degree, he was a Program Co-ordinator with Soso World Ministries which provides support for low-income residents.

“I was in challenged neighbourhoods setting up food banks and learning about residents’ concerns,” he said. “I enjoyed talking to people and I knew I could do the same in uniform. I have a lived experience that will allow me to relate to people.”

To prepare for a policing career, Karimi worked in security and as an Auxiliary member with 42 Division.

He is going to 55 Division.

Karimi is one of four YIPI graduates to be sworn in as uniformed officers.

The others are Gurvinder Badwal, Akeem Thomas and Joseph Sunglao who joined Records Management in 2020 before making the transition.

Established in 2006, the six-week summer program caters to high school and university students, between 15 and 18, who come from City of Toronto-designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and often struggle to find summer employment.

Since the program inception 18 years ago, 44 YIPI’s have returned to work with TPS. 

Several prizes were presented at the graduation.

Asher Knochel earned the High Academic Achievement Award with a mark of 95.3%, John Chan was the recipient of the Harry Mayzell Leadership Award, Justin Reimer captured the High Performance in Fitness Award and Kyle Charko won the Most Improved Fitness Award. 

Davine Arulnesan was the recipient of the Gulshan Kassamali Diversity & Inclusion Memorial Award while the Glen Cole Memorial Award was presented to class valedictorian Julia Vanderhorst.

“Over the past six months, I have had the pleasure of getting to know a handful of people’s stories,” she said. “There is an incredible amount of diversity in our recruit class that represents so many different walks of life. For some of us, this is a childhood dream come true. For others, this meant leaving a career and starting a new one. We have 116 different stories that brought us to today, but each of us made the same choice and that is to follow a calling to become a police officer.”

On behalf of the class, Vanderhorst thanked the training officers and others who helped prepare them for the task of policing Canada’s largest city.

The Drill, Dress & Deportment Award was renamed the Jack Reid Toronto Police Military Veterans Association (TPMVA) Award.

The recipient was Vladyslave Bagrii.

Joining Toronto Police in 1941 as a Clerk in the Chief’s Office, Reid took leave two years later to enlist with the Royal Canadian Navy and serve aboard the HMCS Longueil during the Battle of the Atlantic.

A police officer looks around while receiving a standing ovation
World War II veteran and former Toronto Police Staff Sergeant Jack Reid gets a standing ovation Photo: Brent Smyth

Receiving his discharge after the War, he rejoined Toronto Police and was sworn in as a Constable. 

Rising to the rank of Staff Superintendent, Reid – who recently celebrated his 99th birthday – retired in 1984.

The TPMVA member also played key roles in the early days of the Senior Officer’s Organization and the Toronto Police Credit Union.

Beginning last November, the recruits spent five weeks at Toronto Police College where they were introduced to the Criminal Code and the Highway Traffic and Provincial Acts. 

They also received Bias Avoidance, Indigenous Experience, Mental Health & Addiction, Peer Intervention and LGBTQ2S training before heading to the Ontario Police College.

At Aylmer, the focus was on academics, police vehicle operations, defensive tactics, firearms and physical training.

Back at the College, they spent the last 10 weeks doing scenarios, report writing, vehicle stops and additional physical training.

The day after graduation, the recruits head out to their Divisions for station orientation before being matched up with a Coach Officer who partners with them.

This was the last graduation ceremony for Staff Sergeant Leo MacDonald who has led the Community Policing Section at the College, overseeing the training of recruits.

He leaves on July 31 after 35 years with the Service.

“The part I will miss the most is working with recruits,” he said. “They go on the road after they graduate and then come back to the College for courses and I see how much they have grown. That pleases me.”

Every graduating class raises funds for a charity.

Through a bake sale that raised $530 and a raffle for a tactical back pack that brought in $170, Class 24-01 will drop off the donations along with a box of men’s used clothing at Haven Toronto which is a drop-in centre where elder homeless, marginally housed and socially isolated men can feel safe while forming and cultivating friendships and becoming part of a community.

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