Dancing cop grasps importance of community policing
April 29, 2019
For Toronto Police Sergeant Milton Ferguson, community policing means doing whatever it takes to reach citizens, make them feel good about themselves and in the process remind them that officers are human beings.
With young people in the city facing many challenges, he’s often called upon to have one-on-one or group discussions to help inspire youths.
For the last decade, Ferguson has been a sounding board and mentor for youth participants in the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) Youth-Police Dialogue program that offers a safe and inclusive space to share their perspectives about their neighbourhoods and the issues that cause conflict between them and the police.
Just after the Danzig shootings in the summer of 2012, Impact ‘n Communities (INC) founding managing director Soul-R-Damon Maraj recruited Ferguson to work with challenged youths in Scarborough.
INC offers programs and services in the areas of health, sport & recreation, arts & culture, anti-violence & intervention, employment, poverty reduction and holistic life counselling
“Milton has been an integral part of our police dialogues that we initiated with our violence intervention ambassador program where we train about 30 youths over four months,” said Maraj. “We used to bring in members from the justice sector, but we found that police officers were able to reach out more to young people. They have real conversations because there are real concerns and distrust in the community.”
Maraj and Crown Attorney Roger Shallow nominated Ferguson for the OJEN Chief Justices Award that was presented on March 27 at Osgoode Hall.
“This officer is often called up to connect with our cohorts and he does a great job of doing that,” added the frontline community worker. “He has been a strong partner for that particular program.”
Established 14 years ago by the three Chief Justices of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice, the award recognizes an individual who has made an exceptional contribution in promoting public understanding, education and dialogue in support of a responsive and inclusive justice system.
Past recipients include judges, teachers, lawyers, court staff and community organizers.
Ferguson is the first police officer to be recognized with the honour.
“Any honour is special,” he said. “But when it comes from the community, it’s extra special because I have been part of the community before I became a police officer 21 years ago and I never left. I am still engaged with the community trying to make a difference in individuals lives, especially young people.”
OJEN communications manager Nadine Demoe said Ferguson is one of their most reliable volunteers.
“He represents the face of policing in Toronto Police well in many of the city’s under-served communities,” she added.
Ferguson’s name is added to the Chief Justice’s plaque that hangs permanently in the Court of Appeal lobby. He was also presented with a framed print from a Richmond Hill Grade Five student who won a competition about the meaning of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.
Surrounded by giving family members while growing up in Jamaica, it was only natural that Ferguson would do the same.
Since becoming a police officer, he has donated to United Way Greater Toronto which is dedicated to creating opportunities people need to improve their lives and build a better future.
In the last seven years, he has been a United Way leadership donor.
By giving $1,200 or more annually, leadership donors indicate a love for where they reside and want to make a difference when it comes to tackling unignorable issues like poverty, homelessness and social isolation.
Last year, Ferguson’s donation went to Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Pickering.
“This is a church that does a lot of community outreach and is not afraid to tackle serious issues such as violence in our neighbourhoods,” he added. “They go beyond meeting spiritual needs.”
Ferguson’s benevolence extends beyond talking to people and giving money.
While staffing the Service’s Employment Unit booth at the Beaches Jazz Festival in 2014, he was inspired to bust a few dance moves.
“The music was playing and I asked Sergeant Chris Gordon, who was with me, if I could go ahead and do some dancing,” Ferguson, who also busted some serious moves at the Taste of the Danforth in 2012 and the Pan Am Arts festival three years later, recalled. Once it was OK with him, I began to do my thing and the crowd became engaged. I agreed to a request from an individual to take a picture of me. However, I was not aware that so many people were videotaping me.”
Little did Ferguson know the video would go viral with over 90,000 likes.
“I was stunned to learn it became a YouTube sensation,” he said. “It was enjoyment and people came back to our booth to speak with us and engage. I love to do anything for community engagement which that was all about.”
Ferguson said he has always had a passion for dancing.
“Once I hear music, I dance,” he added. “It has always been that way and it will continue to be so.”
Graduating from Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute after migrating in 1978, Ferguson spent a year in Centennial College’s Arts & General Science program and four years in York University’s Kinesiology & Health Science program.
He left the program with two years remaining after getting married and starting a family.
Joining Toronto Police in August 1998, Ferguson was assigned to 41 Division for about five years and 43 Division for six years before being assigned to the Talent Acquisition Team. Promoted in 2015, he spent almost two-and-a-half years at 53 Division before going to 52 Division last June.