New police officers ready to take lessons to the streets

The pomp and ceremony of a military parade gave way to the reality of Toronto’s streets.

MARK O’NEILL, QMI AGENCY Toronto Police Chief, Bill Blair congratulates graduate Stephen Irwin, right, as his father Toronto Police Inspector Steve Irwin looks on. Stephen’s grandfather Detective Michael Irwin was killed in the line of duty in 1972.Class 11-01, 160 recruits of Toronto Police College, shuffled their feet on the varnished hardwood floor of the gym for the last time Thursday as they readied themselves to pound the beat.

Service Chaplain Walter Kelly warned they need to be prepared to face people who will “curse you more than they will bless you.”

In a prayer, Kelly asked that the rookies are brought “safely home after every shift.”

Const. Gregory Yan, 42, was a TTC bus driver, supervisor and special constable, and applied for the force as police were taking over patrolling the transit system.

“I decided this would be a better fit for me and my family,” he said. “This has been a dream since I was a kid to become a police officer. The opportunity was there, so I took it.”

Chief Bill Blair said he remembered his graduation about 35 years ago and felt the same then as the new group does now.

“It’s a moment to be savoured, to be cherished, to be shared,” he said.

Blair said the rookies face “a demanding profession,” and because of what they could face on the streets, they won’t be rookies for long.

“Your impact will be immediately felt,” Blair said. “Your coach officers … will now introduce you to the world of real life.”

It’s important the rookies understand mutual respect must be developed with the communities they serve, he said.

“They trust the police will do the right thing and confidence in our competency in getting the job done … to make the community safe,” Blair said. “If our society perceive the police are not trustworthy, that they are victims of police bias or the criminal justice system has not provided justice to them, then they are more likely to withhold participation in problem-solving and … refusing to co-operate with the police.”

To maintain trust, police must work with “integrity, honesty and fairness,” he said.