New District Special Constables ready to serve in expanded role
When Vashti Persaud applied to Toronto Police Service (TPS) to be a District Special Constable (DSC), she thought she would be assisting frontline officers with some of their tasks.
She didn’t know that her class is the second cohort that combines DSC’s, Court Officers and Divisional Booking Officers into a ‘generalist’ role.
“I saw Special Constables out on the road helping out at crime scenes and assisting officers and I thought that was what I was going to be doing,” she said.
The expanded 13-week training covered academic, practical and dynamic scenario elements along with a written and demonstrated Use of Force exam.
“It was very informative and I enjoyed it,” said Persaud. “My only wish was there was more scenario based interactions because I prefer that to theory. I am an active person who relishes tactile learning.”
Starting at Old City Hall assisting Court Officers on March 6, she will go to 52 Division to do booking before taking to the streets to assist uniformed officers.
Persaud, was a security guard for two years before joining TPS, is among 59 DSC’s who received their badges on February 28 at the Toronto Police College.
Acting Superintendent Shannon Dawson represented Chief Myron Demkiw at the graduation.
She told the graduates that the comprehensive training they received will allow them to serve Torontonians with great skill and knowledge.
“Some of you will manage the custody and transportation of prisoners at a police station or in a courthouse, or work in the field doing crime scene management and report-taking,” Dawson said. “Each function supports our Service in building and maintaining trust with the communities that we serve. I know you will be guided by integrity and self-responsibility, and that you will treat people with respect, equity and dignity.”
Of the new graduates, 14 have transitioned to the DSC program and 43 are new to the Service.
Dawson thanked the new members for choosing TPS.
“Although you have come from different places, have different backgrounds and education and speak different languages, you are alike in your compassion and have demonstrated a genuine commitment to your community,” she said. “I have every confidence in your ability to serve with professionalism, with integrity and according to our core values.”
The senior officer reminded the graduates that prioritizing their self-care will be integral to their success with the Service.
“As you serve our communities with empathy and compassion, it will be essential that you do that so that you can bring the best version of yourself to work and take the best version of yourself home at the end of your shift,” added Dawson.
Superintendent Frank Barredo, the Toronto Police College Unit Commander, spoke on behalf of Interim Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) Chair Lisa Kostakis who was unable to attend the ceremony.
He said the wide-ranging skills the graduates have been exposed to will benefit the Service greatly.
“The amalgamation of these positions along with the comprehensive training we have offered these recruits removes barriers that have existed in the past, allowing them to serve Torontonians with greater skill and knowledge,” he said. “Each of these vital roles are critical responsibilities, all of which contribute to the dynamic and complex work of the Toronto Police Service in ensuring that neighbourhoods across this city are safe, that residents from every community are served and protected by our organization.
“Regardless of where you are placed and regardless of the responsibilities you take on, you will now form an important part of the matrix of community safety provided by the Toronto Police Service as you serve and protect residents in neighbourhoods across the city.”
Barredo told the graduates they are part of a significant evolution in policing as part of a transformative and progressive approach that will enable them to respond to the community in a more effective and efficient way.
“Already, you have demonstrated your deep and sincere commitment to the City you have chosen to serve and protect, coming together to collect clothing and toys for the SickKids Foundation,” he added. “Thank you for signing up for this vital role, for wanting to contribute so meaningfully and powerfully to making our communities safer and better. You signed up for something larger than yourself and for this, we all benefit. So, today and for all the days you do your job with pride, with dedication and with honour, let me say to you and your families, thank you.”
Growing up in Flemingdon Park, Ismail Bangi had many positive interactions with Toronto Police officers.
In the summer of 2014, he was a Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) student assigned to 54 Division.
The Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute graduate’s weekly six-hours of volunteer work in the program was dedicated to the Division’s Sunday afternoon ProAction-funded hockey league for young kids in the neighbourhood at the Angela James Arena.
“I was very passionate about being a role model for the young kids and helping the police,” said Bangi who won the Academic Achievement Award with a mark of 99.27 per cent. “Doing that gave me better idea of the career I wanted to pursue.”
He completed Centennial College’s Community & Justice Services and Ontario Tech University Forensic Science programs, did a co-op at a youth homeless shelter and worked with young people in conflict with the law while employed at the Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services.
In 2021, Bangi joined the Toronto East Court as a Court Clerk.
“There again, I engaged with police officers, some of whom encouraged me to become a member of the Service,” he said. “I applied and was successful.”
Bangi said the training for his new role was intense.
“It was a good intense, though, to prepare us for our jobs in the real world,” he pointed out. “We were challenged on many fronts by the trainers who were very professional and detailed in their approach. Every day was rewarding.”
Bangi is starting in 42 Division booking area.
Booking Officers are responsible for booking, searching, fingerprinting and photographing persons in custody, maintaining the security and wellbeing of prisoners in custody and managing people in emotional crisis and physical distress, using available resources such as the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams or Emergency Medical Services.
After 22 years in security operations in the gaming industry, Richard Kniff was looking for a new challenge.
“There were some colleagues I worked with there who went into policing,” he said. “I went back to school and took some courses at Durham College to upgrade my education before applying to Toronto Police.”
The training, added Kniff, was top notch.
“They did a fantastic job of providing us with all the tools and resources we need to do our jobs,” he pointed out.
Kniff is going to 14 Division as a DSC.
The DSC position was created to supplement and help create capacity for frontline officers by taking on tasks that would otherwise be assigned to police officers such as guarding a crime scene or canvassing for information. The training included instruction on crime scene management and de-escalation techniques.
Some of the graduates will assist in Divisions, supporting police officers in their work as well as managing prisoners. Others will work in Court Services, deployed to maintain security at courthouses and transporting prisoners.
The graduates will do field training for the next six months – two months each in the DSC role, Court Services and the Divisional Booking position.
“The aim is to utilise Special Constables effectively to take care of staffing constraints,” said Special Constable Training Co-ordinator & Supervisor Oluwayemisi (Missy) Olasusi. “They will be used wherever the Service needs them.”
Valedictorian Thomas Shaw was the recipient of one of two Leadership Awards.
“In the last 13 weeks, we transformed from a group of individuals to a team,” he said.
Alessandro Caperna won the other Leadership Award, Omar Ramish captured the Physical Training Most Improved Award and Alessandro Camargo received the Physical Training High Performance Award.