Tri-Service Awards Honour Dispatchers

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair


Toronto Police Service Communicator of the Year Peter Karagiannis was among several Emergency Services members honoured at Toronto Police headquarters on April 15.

“Fire, paramedics and police work so closely together everyday and it is a pleasure when our Services can come together to celebrate our members for their exceptional work,” said Acting Chief Lauren Pogue. “When I think about telecommunicators, I think about trust. The definition of trust is the ‘assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.’ I think that perfectly describes the telecommunicators’ role. You are the vital link to police officers, paramedics and firefighters in the field. 

“When responding to an emergency, whether it be for fire, paramedics, or police, we have unquestionable trust in your abilities to simultaneously assist the caller, mobilise the appropriate resources and provide support, sometimes life-saving support, to your colleagues at the scene.”

Pogue said First Responders support is essential to everyone responding to critical situations.

“It is this trust that we have in your professionalism, quality of work and unwavering dedication that we can always count on you when you’re needed the most,” she added. “Your acute understanding of the work and the immense responsibility that each of you hold naturally creates a level of trust and respect for your communications peers in other services. With this confidence in your counterparts, everyone performs to the highest standard for the safety of all first responders and community members.

“There are many people who don’t see the work you do and the functions you perform, but we all see your flawless execution when emergency services arrive on scene, save lives and help those in need. I want to express my immense gratitude and appreciation for your work, which exemplifies the best qualities of our organizations. Your steadfast commitment to teamwork helps to build trust and strengthen our relationship with the communities we serve.”

While working a 12-hour shift in June 2023, dispatching for two divisions in Scarborough, officers advised Karagiannis that while they were they were investigating a separate high priority call they were flagged down by a citizen.

The citizen told the officers their sister had just been abducted by an ex-partner who was armed with a firearm.

Karagiannis jumped into action, creating a call for service and dispatched additional officers to attend. He continued to gather and clarify information from the officers while ensuring that notifications were made and officers were kept up to date with the most recent information being provided.

The suspect fled into York Region where the Toronto Police located the victim.

Radio communication between Toronto and York police was set up, allowing Karagiannis to communicate with both Services simultaneously and update officers on the suspect’s location.

The suspect was apprehended and a firearm was recovered.

“Pete’s quick thinking and calm control ensured key updates and communication were shared with all involved Services and officers, as well as his supervisory staff,” said Communications Services Manager Kerry-Anne Murray-Bates. “His professionalism and ability to quickly make sound decisions helped lead to a peaceful and safe resolution for all involved parties.”

Karagiannis, who holds an undergraduate degree in Criminology from the University of Toronto, has been a Communications Operator since 2003.

“It was a team effort and I was just happy to help out and play my role,” he said. “Most people wake up in the morning not realizing they will have an emergency that day. That is when we step in to assist and ensure that the outcome is favourable.”

This year, Toronto Police Communications Services unveiled a new award to honour the memory of Kim Ferris who passed away in 2023. She retired in 2020 after 30 years with the Communications Services Unit.

Heidi Paterson was the inaugural recipient of the Kim Ferris Award.

A police officer stands next to a woman holding an award, also next to a woman dressed in black
Heidi Paterson (middle), the inaugural winner of the Kim Ferris Award, poses with Deputy Chief Lauren Pogue and Communications Services Manager Kerry-Anne Murray-Bates. Photo: Brent Smyth

“With this award, we honour the memory of someone whose presence filled a room with kindness and support,” said Murray-Bates who joined Pogue in presenting the award. “Anyone who meets Heidi would describe her as calm, thoughtful, confident, empathetic, patient and, above all else, kind. She remains unfailingly optimistic and is an exemplary model of the Service’s core values.”

Paterson started her career on ‘E’ platoon with Ferris 18 years ago.

Communications Operators are a vital link between citizens needing urgent assistance and police, fire and medical personnel responding to calls for service. 

They answer 9-1-1 calls and are required to learn how to ask pertinent questions, give sound advice and process calls relating to a range of offences and incidents. Dispatchers then ensure police officers have all the information they need to keep everyone safe.

Toronto Police Service Board member Nick Migliore said 9-1-1 emergency telecommunicators are the heartbeat of the emergency response system.

“In moments of crisis when every second counts, these dedicated professionals are the calm and steady voices on the other end of the line, guiding us with confidence and expertise,” he pointed out. “Our telecommunicators play an extremely critical role in our police response and enable our officers to provide excellent, effective and caring service to neighbourhoods across this city every day.

“While their work goes unnoticed by the public, its tremendous impact reverberates throughout our community. Their contributions are immeasurable and today we honour them for their service, their sacrifice and their unwavering dedication to the well-being of others.”

Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said the role that communications operators play is very significant.

“I have seen it for myself and, as I travel the province, I always ask where are these amazing 9-1-1 call operators,” he said. “If they are there, I will always wave and say hello to send a message to them that the work they do day-in and day-out, to be that first line of communication with a person who has a serious issue, is not insignificant. They are close to my heart and top of line.”

Hannah Speed of Toronto Paramedic Service was the recipient of the Call Taker of the Year Award, Nicole Burns was presented with the Emergency Medical Dispatcher of the Year Award, Jason Ventura received the Senior Emergency Medical Dispatcher Leadership Award and Dilnawaz Jogina secured the Communications Training Officer Mentor Award.

“Each day, Toronto Paramedic Services’ Call Takers and Emergency Medical Dispatchers work alongside our Toronto Police and Fire colleagues to provide the highest level of skill and empathy, caring for our communities in the face of demanding situations,” said Toronto Paramedic Services Chief Bikram Chawla. “I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for all of Toronto’s devoted emergency telecommunicators for ensuring the well being and safety of our residents and visitors.”

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