When I first learned that my request to spend a day at 53 Division had been approved, I was excited. Shortly after, my mood shifted to nervous and then to dread. What unit would I work with? Would there be danger lurking at every corner?
Police Constable and Community Response Unit member Brenda Dolenc suggested that a day with the Primary Response Unit might be more exciting, but much as I love Leaside Life, I was not (yet) ready to die for it. I humbly requested to tag along with her in the CRU.
The CRU is highly interactive, and includes constables on bikes, neighbourhood officers, the Crime Prevention Unit, Traffic Response Unit, School Relations Officers, and other community-related departments. The Primary Response Unit deals with emergency calls. There is also the Criminal Investigation Bureau, where you’ll find detectives, the Fraud Unit, the Major Crime Unit and other investigative branches. I stuck with the CRU to see what it’s like being an officer in our part of the Big Smoke.
My tour of 53 Division started through the eyes of a prisoner, where I was shown the rooms where I’d be searched and processed, then to the holding room and later, the interview room.
From there the CRU officers were heading to their biweekly ball hockey game at the Jenner Jean-Marie Community Centre on Thorncliffe Park Drive, so I tagged along. One might think the constables would play their co-workers. Instead, the officers from 53 Division play neighbourhood kids who live in the Thorncliffe Park area to help boost youth morale.
Police Constables Karimloo and Michaelides, the neighbourhood officers for Thorncliffe Park Drive at the helm of the first annual ball hockey league, were encouraged to see increasing attendance at these events.
“It’s good for them to see us out of uniform,” said PC Karimloo, because “depending on what country residents are from, there’s a lot of stigma that follows people in uniform.” Being from the Middle East himself, he knows some cultures don’t hold officers in high regard.
The CRU has done a lot with the kids around Thorncliffe Park in collaboration with Kids Up Front Toronto, an organization that accepts donated sporting event tickets and distributes them to kids in the community. They often get Toronto Rock lacrosse tickets and once even scored a box suite at the ACC for a Toronto Rock game.
Constable Karimloo said it’s great to get involved and help the public see they’re human too. Especially with the kids, he said, “Sometimes they’re surprised to learn that the officers have the same interests as the youth, like sports or teams, and we can interact with them on that level.” The main objective here is breaking down barriers and building trust in the community.
Constable Michaelides added they’ve done team-building events like taking kids to the Sky Zone trampoline park, bowling, and a night out with dinner and a movie. This summer, 53 Division will be involved in multiple graffiti cleanup projects and several one-day sports events, including soccer, ball hockey and cricket. Soccer will take place at the Thorncliffe Soccer Club, ball hockey and cricket at the Jenner Jean-Marie Centre. Kids who want to get involved with the summertime fun can visit the soccer club or the Jean-Marie Centre to register.
Back at the station and out of civvies, Constable Dolenc donned her uniform, acquired her gun, radio and keys to a squad car, and headed off to patrol. I headed home. On my way, I noticed a bulletin board in the hallway labelled Community Letters, tacked with letters from the locals. Constable Dolenc said she looks at the board for inspiration. During my brief look at a day in the life of an officer, I found the job equal parts awesome and terrifying. I think maybe I could survive Ontario Police College, but for now, I’ll leave Leaside policing to the experts.