After spending time volunteering with food drives and as a Greek Community Toronto Board Director, Gina Tassopoulos’ elderly neighbour convinced her to take the act of giving freely to the next level.
While chatting outside their homes last summer, retired Toronto Police officer and ex-military member Frank Curina, 86, encouraged her to give the TPS Auxiliary program a try.
“He explained that volunteering on the frontlines would be something I should do,” she recalled. “I am a Behavioural Therapist and when you mix that component of being one-on-one with people and offering service to a wide community, it just felt natural. Through this process, I have met so many incredible people from so many different backgrounds.”
Tassopoulos is among 58 new Auxiliary members who graduated on December 13 at the Toronto Police College.
Nearly 300 Auxiliaries volunteer 65,000 hours in Toronto annually, assisting in community mobilization initiatives, crime prevention programs, special events, parades, searches for missing persons and emergency call-outs.
In eight weeks since October 18, they were engaged in a variety of academic and practical training to prepare them for their role.
“I really enjoyed the defensive training that gives you that extra-confidence,” said Tassopoulos. “Now we are going to be out on the streets, it is important we know what how we should react when confronted with a challenging situation.”
There was a time when Jared Bernatt considered policing as a career.
“Life got in the way and I was not able to pursue it as a full-time career,” he pointed out. “I figured now is a great time to get into the world of policing by volunteering and giving back to the community while maintaining a full-time job and a family.”
Bernatt, who has a Media Broadcasting Arts degree from Toronto Metropolitan University and is a Information Technology consultant, enjoyed the training.
“We did everything from crisis management and equity and inclusion to defensive tactics and police vehicle operation,” he said. “I have had some great life experiences and now is time to give back to the city that I live in.”
Extending the reach beyond her community was one of the main reasons Karindeep Soomal joined the Auxiliary program.
“When I looked at what members did and the large scope of their outreach, I figured that would be something that I should do,” said the Paragon Security member who migrated from India.
She plans to use the Auxiliary program to gain experience before pursuing a career as a police officer.
The graduating class of 58 was among 300 applicants.
“You should all feel very proud of yourselves,” said Deputy Chief Lauren Pogue. “You came to this very building to be interviewed and it was apparent from the start that you brought a diverse wealth of life and professional experiences, cultures and languages.”
The graduates include information technology specialists, bank managers, business owners, pharmacists, transit operators and law enforcement partners.
It is an honour, noted Pogue, to welcome the incredible team to the Toronto Police family.
“Our new graduates are ready to experience the job they have been training for, excited to be giving back to the Service and their community and excited to learn,” she added. “It is difficult to adequately describe the enormous impact that you will have on the Toronto Police Service and the citizens of Toronto. As individuals, you bring lived experiences, skills and attributes that will enhance and enrich the Auxiliary program and we want to thank you for your willingness to serve our Toronto communities. We are excited to witness the results of your endeavours and watch you grow as collaborative members of the Toronto Police Service, working with us to enhance public safety.”
Interim Toronto Police Services Board Chair Ainsworth Morgan reiterated that Auxiliary members are an integral and valued part of the TPS.
“In addition to assisting the Service in many important ways, they bring a calm, professional and reassuring presence,” he said. “They also bring to the Service an incredible array of ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity, truly reflecting the unique city in which we live.”
The graduates’ ages range from 19 to 61.
In each graduating class, the student who demonstrates outstanding performance in the various training programs is presented with the Julian Fantino Award for their proficiency.
A former Chief, Fantino began his career as an Auxiliary member.
The recipient was Rossanna Abuel.
Long-Service Awards were presented to Auxiliary Superintendent Frank Fernandes and Staff Sergeant Tim Maiolo.
A member since September 1971, Fernandes has served in various roles within the program, including Divisional Officer and Motorcycle member.
During his 51 years, he has attended several disaster scenes, assisted in searches, engaged in crime prevention initiatives and attended funerals of fallen officers in Canada and the United States.
“Having had the opportunity to join the Toronto Police Auxiliary family provided me with an opportunity give back to the community by providing help and care for others and trying to help make our communities a safer place for all,” said Fernandes, who is the recipient of the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and multiple Toronto Police commendations. “This has truly been the most rewarding part of being an Auxiliary member.”
Maiolo enlisted in the program on October 1, 1981.
Promoted to Staff Sergeant in 2001, he was assigned to 14 Dvision in 2015.
“These two members are an inspiration and role model to our new graduating class and those that continue to follow in their footsteps,” said Superintendent Lee Ann Papizewski who is the Community Partnerships & Engagement Unit Commander.
The Auxiliary program was established 65 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 which killed 81 people in Canada, the majority in Toronto.
In the last five decades, members have provided countless hours of service during the 2010 G20 Summit, papal visits in 1984 and 2002 during World Youth Day celebrations, at the 2003 Rolling Stones concert and at the sites of the 1962 propane plant explosion in Maple, the 1969 natural gas explosion in Malton and the 1979 trail derailment in Mississauga.
Visit our Volunteer Opportunities webpage here to learn how to get involved.