Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of communities, the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safe and effective delivery of policing services, says former Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA) president, Audrey Campbell.
“It’s not about Danny Reagan in Blue Bloods, which is one of my favourites, slapping people around and violating their rights,” she told Toronto Police Service (TPS) rookies at their graduation ceremony last week. “It’s not about intimidation. Twenty first century policing is about building trust, respect and partnering with the folks you serve. Our expectation is that you will go out there and get to know us. Sometimes, your encounters will not be that positive. Like any job, you will have good and bad days. Always remember, though, that you are the paid professional and have a duty to exemplify that.”
Campbell, who migrated from Jamaica at age eight, pleaded with the new recruits not to abuse their power and disrespect community members because of negative experiences they might encounter on the job.
“Do not indict entire communities based on the criminals that you will be exposed to,” she told them. “Like you will find, there are always bad apples, whether they be police officers or members of the community. You cannot let unpleasant interactions cloud your judgement. I have faith in you and confidence in Toronto Police that you will receive the training that you need to carry out your new profession with dignity, honour and respect.”
Campbell addressed the graduating class in her capacity as a citizen volunteer with the Police and Community Engagement Review (PACER) committee that she co-chairs with Staff Sergeant Stacy Clarke.
“Our committee is working with Chief (Mark) Saunders and, in some capacity, with the Toronto Police Services Beard (TPSB) to implement recommendations that affect police training, communication with the public, professional standards with a lens on the mental health of officers and procedures on community engagement,” said Campbell, who was the fourth female JCA president after Kamala-Jean Gopie, Valarie Steele and Sandra Carnegie-Douglas.
“As citizen volunteers, we made a commitment to engage and initiate changes. We are not Baltimore, North Carolina or New York nor do we want to be. We are working together with TPS and the TPSB to ensure that never happens.”
In his address, Saunders told the new class they belong to a generation of the best trained officers in the profession.
“You are amongst the most educated, you come from amazing diverse backgrounds, you possess cultural competencies, language skills and a good understanding of the law and knowledge of how to apply the law,” he said. “These will be the keys to your success in making our communities safe.
“You have entered into a world where transparency is demanded, not requested, not optional. You have entered a new era of policing. You will learn to work in cars with cameras, booking halls with cameras and offices with cameras. Remain steadfast to your training because all eyes are watching. These qualities will help you earn the trust and confidence of the people you are now sworn to serve. You will need all of these skills and more.”
Saunders, who joined the Service 32 years ago, reminded the rookies that every action they take, positive or negative, affects the entire Service.
“Public trust has to be earned,” he said. “It can only be earned by what we do, not by what we say we will do. It is everyone’s responsibility to earn, maintain and build upon that very trust. We can only do so by carrying out our duties with integrity, honesty and fairness. We can only maintain that trust if we truly respect the people we have sworn to protect.
“I do not suggest this will always be easy. You will be challenged. You will encounter violent criminals and you will deal with people who exploit others. When you come across those encounters, I am counting on you to rise above them. Hold yourself to a higher level of conduct. It won’t be easy, but our training has taught you how to do just that. Do not let such people rob you of your professionalism or of your humanity. Your job is to make the world a better and safer place. Do not let the worst of society deter you from your mission.”
The new class of 34 comprises 38.2 per cent visible minorities and 26.5 per cent women.
Among the new female officers is Amy Beckles, who was turned on to policing after joining the Service five years ago as a civilian with Video Services.
“Part of my job was preparing disclosure reports and I got to hear some of the cases and basically see first-hand what the public doesn’t get to see,” she said. “That was when I really became interested in policing as a career.”
Beckles spent almost two-and-a-half years with Video Services before securing permanent employment with the Property & Evidence Management Unit.
“The time spent there was valuable as I learned a lot, but I wanted to go out into the community and make a difference as opposed to working behind the scenes,” she said.
The daughter of Barbadian immigrants, Beckles was raised in Malvern which was designated a priority neighbourhood by the provincial government. She completed high school at St. John Paul II Catholic Secondary School and graduated from York University with a human resources management degree.
Like most of the new recruits, Beckles said the training was rigorous.
“It was extremely demanding, but it taught me never to give up no matter how hard things get,” she said.