There was a time when Orlando Franklin was running with the wrong crowd with police in hot pursuit. Twice arrested and incarcerated as a teenager, the former Scarborough resident turned his life around with the support of his mother and is now an offensive lineman with the National Football League’s Denver Broncos. He’s also an ally of the police and was only too happy to be invited to be part of the Toronto Police Service’s annual summer carnival kick-off last Saturday at Seneca College.
“When I was younger, I did not have much respect for the police,” said Franklin who attended the University of Miami before turning professional. “Now I am out there telling young kids to do the right thing and work with police. Cops are my best friends now.”
Born in Jamaica, Franklin came to Canada at age three and left 13 years later to pursue post-secondary education and play college football in the United States. He said he enjoys spending time and participating in community events in Toronto during the off-season.
“When I was young, I dreamed of having the opportunity to give back something to this community,” said Franklin who has a foundation that supports disadvantaged youth. “This is my city and I just love to be here interacting with young people and doing whatever I could to make a difference in the lives of youths. I spend about five months here every year.”
Franklin, along with Denver Broncos teammate Philip Blake and National Hockey League players Chris Stewart and Daniel Winnik, took part in the unveiling ceremony of the service’s float – Diversity in Motion – and costumes that will be on display in the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival parade on August 4.
“This is the first time the launch has been held away from police headquarters.
“We are a community, but we are very much aware that we live in a community,” said Seneca College’s president, David Agnew. “The mantra that we live by is if you want to make a life, it’s not by what you get but by what you give. That’s why community itself is one of our core values.”
Police Chief Bill Blair, who once lectured at the college, praised the service’s Divisional Policing Support Unit and 33 Division Unit Commander, Staff Inspector Tony Riviere, for their vision in taking the launch to the college campus.
“This is the start of two of the best weeks in the city and we are happy to be active participants in the festivities,” he said.
Toronto Police Service Board chair, Dr. Alok Mukherjee, joined in the festivities that included some of this summer’s Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) students.
“Through celebrations such as this, we forge bonds of friendship and form significant partnerships,” he said. “This is why our board is proud to be part of this exciting and dynamic annual festival. The carnival is a celebration of the richness, vibrancy and colourfulness of the kaleidoscopic culture that characterises our city and our country today. The powerful spirit of this festival can be felt through this city and in all of our neighbourhoods.”