Youth Program Students Return to Serve City
Five Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) graduates are among the Toronto Police Service (TPS) new police constables who received their badges on June 5 and are set to serve and protect the city.
This is the largest number of YIPIs in a recruit class since the program started in 2006.
“To have these five individuals, who learned about the Service as young people, come back to make policing their chosen career is incredibly powerful,” said Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) Chair Ann Morgan, of the program that gives young people exposure to the TPS through part-time paid work.
Anthony Perkins who participated virtually in 2021 during the pandemic, is the youngest person to graduate in this police constable class at 20 years old.
Positive interactions with officers while attending Silverthorn Junior Public School sparked his interest in policing.
“They played ball hockey with us in our little area,” he said. “From then, I looked up to them and wanted to be a police officer serving the community.”
Assigned to 43 Division, Perkins – who ran his own clothing business while in school – is entering a profession his father once had an interest in.
“He wanted to be a cop in Jamaica, but it didn’t happen,” said the young man who migrated to Canada with his family in 2007. “I know I am very young, but I am ready for this. The training has been excellent.”
Enrolled in Toronto Metropolitan University Business Management program, Perkins plans to complete the 13 courses needed to get his undergraduate degree.
YIPI Program Coordinator Melva Radway said the recruit is wise beyond his years.
“I knew Anthony was in school and doing very well,” she said. “But he was so focused on becoming an officer. He knows what he wants and I admire that about him. In everything we did during the program, he took a leadership role. He stood out in the class.”
Ever since growing up in China, Shu Ming Zhang was attracted to policing.
Participating in program in 2015 while assigned to 41 Division reinforced his belief that he could do the job.
“I got exposure to a lot of units, including the Emergency Task Force and the Marine Unit,” he said. “Since I was about seven years old, I knew policing is what I wanted to be in. There is something about the profession that appealed to me.”
After graduating from the University of Toronto with a Criminology degree, he applied to TPS in 2022 and was accepted.
Zhang is going to 52 Division.
Through the YIPI program, Christopher Sasso found a love of policing.
Before being accepted into the 2015-16 winter program, he didn’t have a career goal.
“Working at 31 Division with an amazing group of officers and seeing the impact they made on the community let me know that was the career I wanted to pursue,” said Sasso, who applied to TPS in April 2022 after finishing the University of Guelph/Humber Justice Studies program.
Assigned to 12 Division as a YIPI eight years ago, Gianluca Civichino volunteered at a food bank and helped officers cover illegal graffiti vandalism.
“Those were really great experiences that helped prepare me for the career I am embarking on,” he said. “I love community work.”
Civichino said the training was top-notch.
“What really stood out for me were the opportunities to learn more about the city’s diverse communities.” the Martingrove Collegiate Institute and University of Guelph/Humber graduate said. “That was very important to me as most of the Divisions are very diverse and we will be dealing with people from all backgrounds and cultures.”
Inspector Ted Lioumanis presented Civichino with his badge.
“He is a friend of my dad and the person who introduced me to the YIPI program,” said the recruit.
Before participating in the YIPI program in 2013, Adam Holness wanted to be a lawyer.
There was a change after he completed the six-week summer program that 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.
“I felt welcomed the moment I entered 33 Division a decade ago,” said Holness. “The officers were great and I was given the opportunity to take part in several community events. Once I saw how much the officers were engaged in and with the community, I said I wanted to be part of that.”
The West Hill Collegiate Institute graduate, who completed York University Humanities program, returned to the YIPI program in 2020 to serve for two years as a Program Assistant.
With Radway and Brenden McDonald, they developed the first YIPI virtual program during COVID-19.
Holness is assigned to 33 Division.
“After my experience there 10 years ago, that was my first choice and I am extremely fortunate to get my wish,” he added. “It is just a great community to work in.”
Since the program inception 17 years ago, 31 alumni – 16 uniformed and 15 civilian – have returned to work with TPS.
In welcoming the YIPIs and other recruits, Chief Myron Demkiw noted they bring an invaluable wealth of knowledge and life experiences to the organization.
“You each represent your own communities with many bringing fluency in multiple languages, including Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, Arabic, Greek, Tamil and German,” he pointed out. “This is something we truly value as you will contribute to helping us serve our diverse communities and neighbourhoods across Toronto. Thank you for choosing the Toronto Police Service.”
Though coming from different backgrounds, Demkiw told the graduates they are alike in their compassion as they truly embody the Service’s core value of Service at our Core.
“As you selflessly serve the residents of Toronto, I know you will be guided by your integrity and will treat people respectfully and equitably,” he said.
In giving much of themselves now to policing, the Chief reiterated the importance of self-care.
A few weeks ago while he was speaking with the recruit class, they signed a document formalizing their commitment to self-care.
“I am hopeful that this commitment will be one of the many steps that we take together – to co-create an organizational culture that prioritizes your health, safety and well-being,” said the Chief. “As police officers, our health, safety and well-being are critical for us to be effective in our work. And please know that your health, safety and well-being are, and will always be, our top priority. We owe it to our family and friends, we owe it to our communities and we owe it to ourselves to prioritize self-care.”
Speaking directly to the graduating class family and friends, Demkiw promised the organization will do everything to ensure they return home after their shifts.
“It is understandable that some of you are worried about them as they embark on this journey in their careers as a police officer,” he added. “I am sure that your concern has grown over the past several months given the number of police officers who have died in the line of duty. I want you to know I understand your concerns. It has been a difficult time for police families and I know that the reason you are concerned is because of how much you love your officer. Please know that when your favourite officer comes to work, we will treat them like family.”
A total of 85 per cent of the class has post-secondary education and 46 per cent speak at least one language other than English.
“You diversity is a mirror of our extraordinary city,” Morgan, a former Deputy Crown Attorney, told the graduates. “And in it lies our formidable strength. The quality of our Service is 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.”
In preparation for a policing career, Taylor Thompson was a University of Toronto Special Constable for two-and-a-half years.
“This was the only Service I applied to because I was born and raised in this city,” said the Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute graduate who studied Criminology at Toronto Metropolitan University. “Originally, I wanted to be a teacher, but I was discouraged because of a lack of positions. I have a few friends in policing and they felt I would enjoy this career.
She is going to 41 Division.
Coming from India in 2015 as an international student, Sukhchain Singh worked in a factory part-time while studying.
Last year, he met two 31 Division officers at a temple.
“They answered every question I asked about how I could get into the profession and made me feel comfortable,” said Singh, who is assigned to 13 Division. “They referred me to another officer who helped me with the process of applying.”
Rejected the first time she applied after failing the fitness test, Sevilay Kayalica was not deterred from her goal of becoming a TPS officer.
“I took a year off and worked really hard to be in shape,” she said. “It paid off.”
Prior to joining the Service, she was a security officer at Yorkdale Mall and a Toronto Transit Commission Fare Inspector for a combined eight years.
“I worked with TPS officers at Yorkdale and had some good experiences,” she said.
Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said there is a reason why the cadets chose to pursue a policing career.
“It is because you chose to make a difference in the lives of others,” he said. “You chose a career of meaning, purpose and satisfaction that we can do good each and every day, that you can help someone without them knowing and when they least expected. That is what policing is all about.”
Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie also thanked the graduates for selecting a career that will impact many lives.
“Being a member of Toronto Police is an enormous responsibility,” she pointed out. “Toronto is a city like no other in Canada.”
Several awards were presented at the graduation ceremony.
Kristina O’Hara earned the High Academic Achievement Award with a mark of 98.2 per cent, Andrew McLean was the recipient of the Harry Mayzell Leadership Award, Lucas Atzori captured the High Performance in Fitness Award, Kevin da Costa won the Most Improved Fitness Award and Luke Rittwage was recognized for Drill, Dress & Deportment.
Conrad Francis was the recipient of the Gulshan Kassamali Diversity & Inclusion Memorial Award while the Glen Cole Memorial Award was presented to class valedictorian Andrew Harden.
“We sit here full of pride and ready to receive our badges and begin what we hope will be long and rewarding careers,” he said. “It has been a long journey, one filled with challenges, sacrifices and hard work. And while we have finally achieved our goal of becoming police officers, we will continue to face new challenges and opportunities as we progress in our careers.”
Harden reminded his recruit class that the profession they are entering is dangerous.
Since TPS Constable Andrew Hong’s death in September 2022, a total of 10 Canadian law enforcement officers have died in the line duty.
“This past year has been a stark reminder of the dangers that this job can present and the sacrifices that we and our families ultimately make,” added Harden. “So, as each of us head out to our assigned divisions and begin our duties across the city, remember those unique characteristics that got you here. Always act with courage and integrity and, most importantly, look after yourself and your fellow brothers and sisters to ensure that you do everything to come back home to your families and loved ones at the end of every shift.”
Each graduating class supports a charity.
This group chose Shelter Movers that is a national, volunteer-driven charitable organization providing free moving and storage service to individuals and families fleeing abuse.
They raised $2,026.
Learn more about becoming a police constable or the many other roles in policing at www.tps.ca/careers