Taking Closer Look at Policing

Last February, a teenager was fatally shot inside David & Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute in Scarborough.

Just three days earlier, Mostafa Eiwazkhani had encountered the student, whom had been an acquaintance since Grade Seven.

“We talked for a bit,” the 17-year-old high school graduate said. “I was shocked when I learned on the news he had lost his life.”

That tragedy reinforced Eiwazkhani’s decision to consider policing as a career.

“This is a something I want to do because I feel that the best way to give back to the community that raised me is to, at least, help them,” he said at the launch of this year’s launch of the Youth In Policing Initiative (YIPI) at Toronto Police College on July 4. “Through the YIPI program, I am hoping to get the experience that will set me on the path to becoming a Toronto Police officer.”

YIPI students are paid to work alongside police officers and civilians over the course of the summer and after-school during the rest of the year.

As a member of the Chief’s Youth Advisory Committee, Eiwazkhani has interacted with Constable Isabelle Cotton who is the committee’s liaison.

“She suggested this would really be a good opportunity for me.”

Enrolled in Centennial College’s Police Foundations program, Eiwazkhani plans to pursue Criminology Studies at Humber College before applying to be a police officer.

When Grade 10 student Madelyn Cowan saw a YIPI job post on her school’s website, her interest was peaked.

The program offerings aligned with some of her life goals.

“I have always had a desire to help people and I think this program will give me some of the tools and experience to pursue a law enforcement career,” said the 15-year-old Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute student.

Her uncle, Tom Hayes, is a TPS member.

“When I told him I applied, he congratulated me and said it is a great opportunity,” said Cowan, who plans to study Criminology. “One of the things I want to do in the future if I take up policing is to promote inclusion. I believe that in order to see change, you have to be the change.”

Of the nearly 600 applicants, a total of 117 from 31 neighbourhood improvement areas were accepted into this year’s program.

Staff Superintendent Randy Carter told the youth they represent the future of Toronto and will help shape communities and come up with solutions.

“For over 15 years, the YIPI program has been providing young people like yourselves with leadership skills and the confidence you will need to achieve your goals,” he said. “What you learn as part of this initiative will help you navigate the challenges of becoming a leader, promote good decision making and equip you with the skills to prepare for your chosen careers.”

Carter said the program has been beneficial to the Service and the community.

“As a police service, it gives us the opportunity to interact and learn from you and it helps bridge the gap that sometimes exists between young people and the police,” he said. “As a police service committed to strengthening trust with all of our communities, the YIPI program allows us to build relationships with you while opening your eyes to the complex and exciting world of policing.”

The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) has strongly endorsed the program since its inception in 2006.

“Our Board is very proud of this program,” said Chair Jim Hart. “We believe it has countless benefits for the young people involved, the Toronto Police Service, and our city.”

He said the program reflects the Board’s recognition of the importance of combining comprehensive and meaningful preventative measures and traditional law enforcement to tackles crime prevention, community safety and public engagement.

“For those of you that have been selected, you should be very proud of your achievement in what was an extremely competitive field,” said Hart. “You will take on meaningful work during the summer that develops important employment and life skills while fostering hope and pride among our young people. You will visit a number of Toronto Police facilities and participate in various fun and exciting community events.”

The TPSB Chair reminded the students that they are embarking on one of the most valuable educational opportunities they will ever have.

“Take time to learn from our police officers and from each other,” he added. “Be proud of the great contribution you are making to your city. Know that we, as a Board and as an organization, share the pride that your families feel. I wish all of you a summer that promises a unique and dynamic education, wonderful experiences and many new friendships.”

In 2008, the program was permanently incorporated into the Ontario government’s list of youth programs. A year later, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services expanded its funding to the program to accommodate a 50 per cent increase in hires.

Since the program inception, the Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services has collaborated with TPS to deliver the summer program.

Assistant Deputy Minister David Mitchell said it is one of his favourites because it provides value on many fronts for community safety and the program participants.

“The YIPI program delivers real value that can shape the lives and the future of young people and it opens doors for endless possibilities,” he said. “This program is a good example of the incredible outcomes that can be achieved by youth when we provide meaningful opportunities for them to succeed and grow.”

Police officer
Constable Joshua Rigg was inspired to join the Toronto Police Service after working as a YIPI student Photo: Brent Smyth

Of the 13 former YIPI’s who are now TPS members, six of them are police officers, including Constables Ricardo Araujo and Joshua Rigg who graduated from the program in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

“Since graduating 10 years ago, this program has assisted me in obtaining new opportunities, maintaining connections and in helping play a role where I am today,” said Rigg, who is assigned to 32 Division. “Little did I know that this experience would actually help me decide my career coming out of high school and what I wanted to do in university.”

Rigg, who is also a Reserve with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada as an Infantry Soldier, told the 2022 summer cohort that they are privileged to be in the program.

“Many students across the city would love to be in your position,” he noted. “Make the most of the summer by learning a lot and working hard. Doing the little things such as being on time, looking presentable, asking questions when you don’t know the answer and being respectful go a long way and will make your life easier.”

Araujo, who is at 13 Division, told the students they have the best job in the city.

“This team works tirelessly to ensure you get the best training and experience available, so take advantage of it,” he said. “Ask questions, take on that task you are nervous about, give that presentation and be a leader. You will get out of this program as much as you put into it.”

The program lasts eight weeks.

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