Program gives youth an inside view of policing

Program gives youth an inside view of policing

May 11, 2017

What’s your name?

“Nathaniel Bennett, Badge #83100,” was the proud and confident reply of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) winter program graduate.

Prior to joining earlier this year, the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School student aspired to be a great musician.

He now has a back-up plan if that career doesn’t work out.

“Hands down, this was one of the best experiences in my life and I would definitely consider policing as a career,” he said.

Bennett, who loves to dance, sing and deejay, was introduced to the program last year.

“A recruiter came by our school during the lunch hour and delivered some flyers,” he said. “That was the first time I heard about the program and I was interested right away.”

The teenager, also known as ‘DJ Natty B’, was assigned to 22 division.

“I really enjoyed waking up on Saturdays and going up there,” Bennett pointed out. “It was just a pleasure to be part of the police family going out into the community and doing whatever tasks we were assigned.”

Bennett said his perspective of the police has changed.

“Previously, it was based on what I saw and read in the media and that wasn’t always good,” he noted. “Now I know the police have a difficult job and they cannot please everyone. Their goal, as was clear to me, is to make the community safe.”

The Grade 12 student promises be a YIPI program ambassador.

“I have already reached out to some my friends and told them about the wonderful time I had,” he added. “I also let them know that they should think about applying to be part of it.”

The west end high school student was among 60 graduates between the ages of 15 and 18 who were celebrated last week at the police college.

In response to the deadly 2012 Danzig Street shooting that claimed two young lives, the provincial government rolled out a youth action plan with $20 million in new annual funding to improve the lives of young people in the city and the rest of the province.

As part of the plan, the summer jobs for youth program in the city’s challenged neighbourhoods was expanded to provide new after-school jobs during the school year.

Nearly 300 students have graduated from the 17-week YIPI winter program since its inception in 2013.

Acting Chief Rick Stubbings told the students that they played a key role with TPS over the last four months.

“You really contributed to public safety in that time,” he said. “You also learnt a lot about police work, probably a lot more than you thought you would and you probably changed your attitude about police officers and what they and the civilian staff do. You also impacted us immensely.”

There were almost 400 applicants for the 60 positions.

“You were the cream of the crop,” Stubbings told the graduates. “Now that you are leaving us, I don’t want you to forget that you were part of the TPS family and team.”

Inspector Sonia Thomas and Constable Wai Lau of 53 Division were very impressed with the students assigned to their station.

“The quality just seems to be getting better,” said Thomas, the Service’s highest ranking female Black officer “This was a great experience for them and us and we hope to see a few of them in a police uniform down the road.”

Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School Grade 11 student Kevin Tweyongyere relished the experience.

“Before this program, I didn’t really have any interactions with police,” the aspiring accountant pointed out. “Now, I have a much better appreciation for what they do to keep people safe.”

Tweyongyere said some of his program highlights were volunteering at Regent Park Community Centre and using a radar gun targetting speeders.

The graduates completed automated external defibrillator, first-aid training, money management and budget courses. Also, 56 of them received e-mail etiquette and professionalism certificates from the Centre for Skills Development.

The YIPI program was implemented 11 years ago when Mary Anne Chambers was Minister of Children & Youth Services.

“Whenever I attend and hear about the success of the program in Toronto, I also think about the fact that it now exists in more than 20 police services across the province,” said Chambers. “This is important to recognize because as the pilot in 2006, Toronto Police played the role of pioneer. It is because of the success that the program has been in Toronto that young people in other parts on Ontario also have this opportunity.”

Chambers has attended every Toronto Police YIPI summer and winter launch and graduation.

“I attend because I like to observe first-hand how this important initiative is doing,” she said. “It is an opportunity for me to speak with the young people and their parents about their experience with the program and to express my sincere appreciation to the Toronto Police civilian staff and uniformed officers who work to make the program the success that it is. I love their reference to me as being the ‘grandmother’ of the program. This is, for me, a personal legacy of my time in the Government of Ontario.”

Overall, almost 1,860 students have graduated from the programs.

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