Choosing Service Over Self

Manjit Sing

Phuntsok Chomphel chose policing as a way give back to the city that welcomed him to new life in the best way he can.

“This is the only Service I sent an application to because Toronto welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “Now, it is time to give back in a meaningful way. It is the least I could do.”

He’s already had great experience as a senior investigator with a bank, digging into money laundering and proceeds of crime cases.

“I felt limited in my scope and reach, however, and thought the time had come for me to do this for a larger organization and have an impact on the city,” he said.

He is among 113 people who graduated from recruit to police constable on February 16 at the Toronto Police College.

Chomphel has kept himself connected to the police through participation in the Service’s eight-week Community Policing Academy program that offers an up-close look at what challenges police officers face on a daily basis.

He was also a member of the Community Advisory Panel that includes 12 diverse residents, particularly from Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities as well as youth representatives.

For three years up until August, Chomphel was a Crisis Volunteer with Victim Services Toronto. He was also a First Responder with St. John Ambulance.

“I did as much as I could to be fully prepared for a law enforcement career,” the 2017 University of Toronto Rotman School of Management graduate pointed out. “I tried to get all the skills that are necessary to do this challenging job.”

Born in India, the Tibetan refugee spent 19 years in Kolkata before coming to Canada in 2011.

He speaks six languages – English, Hindi, Bengali, Tibetan, Nepali and Urdu and was the recipient of the Gulshan Kassamali Memorial Diversity & Inclusion award for representing the values of diversity for his class.

Assigned to 14 Division, Chomphel is familiar with the community he will serve in, which is home to a small Tibetan community in Parkdale.

In welcoming the new class, Chief Myron Demkiw noted that they bring unique lived experiences to their new role.

A total of 54 per cent of the graduating class speak at least one language other than English, including Punjabi, Italian, Arabic and German.

Over 100 of them have completed post-secondary education and 10 have military experience.


Police officer smiles at another officer
Chief Myron Demkiw congratulates a new police constablePhoto: Brent Smyth


“While you bring so much diversity of thought and experience to our Service, there are also many similarities that you share with us,” said Demkiw. “One of those similarities is that all of you truly embody our core value of service before self.

“As you selflessly serve the residents of Toronto, I know that during every one of your interactions, you will also connect with compassion and ensure that community members are treated equitably. I’m confident that your engagement in our communities and commitment to our core values will go a long way in helping us build and, in some cases, re-build trust in and within the Toronto Police Service. It is my hope that as you serve Toronto’s diverse communities, you will frequently ask yourself the four questions that are embedded within our core values — Have I done all I can do? Have I lived up to my words and values? Have I treated others as they would like to be treated? What else can I do to improve?”

Demkiw wished the recruits well as they embark on a career to serve and protect the citizens of Toronto.

“Tomorrow you will start the next chapter of your story,” he said. “Although this next chapter will have a new setting, new characters and many new adventures, I want to remind you about what will remain consistent in the next chapter. You will still be both the author and the main character in your respective stories. This means that you get to bring all of your knowledge, skills, abilities, education and experience with you as you write your policing story. You get to decide where this amazing career will take you. And you get to choose how hard you will work to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.”

Next week, the graduates will be deployed to Divisions across the city to respond to priority calls for service.

The Chief encouraged them to listen to their coach officers, supervisors and, most importantly, community members who need their help on what just might be one of their most challenging days.

“Understanding the needs, perspectives and experiences of our communities will be critical to your success as a police officer,” he added.

Demkiw urged the graduates to prioritize self-care and thanked their families for entrusting them to the Service.

“Please know that when your favourite officer comes to work, we will treat them like family,” he said. “We will do everything we can to keep them safe and help them come back home safely.”


Police officers march
Family and friends get photos of newest class of police constablesPhoto: Brent Smyth


Toronto Police Services Board Interim Chair Lisa Kostakis also acknowledged the unique experiences and lenses that the class brings to the Service.

“Your diversity is a mirror of our extraordinary city,” she said. “And in it lies our formidable strength. The quality of our Service is strengthened when the diversity of our great city is reflected in those who police it. Through you, we can reach out to our different communities and neighbourhoods, speak to community members in their own languages, create and fortify relationships and thus enhance our ever-important partnership with the public, the critical key to all we do.”

As they start their new career, Kostakis said the rookies have an opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact in the city.

“It is a personal contribution to the safety and well-being of the community that you have vowed to serve and protect,” she pointed out. “It is important to acknowledge the sheer enormity of the service you will provide. It is you and your colleagues who do the difficult work of keeping us all safe. It is you who have made the decision to devote yourselves so fully to others – to serve and protect. You signed up for something larger than yourself and for this, we all benefit. So, today and for all the days you do your job with pride, let me say to you and your families – thank you.”

Michael Kerzner, the province’s Solicitor General, said wearing a badge carries heavy responsibility.

“There is a righteousness, I believe, to your mission and a path in your journey that you have taken willingly,” he said. “I know the path you have chosen is not an easy one. You will never be thanked enough for the job that you will do to keep us safe.”

A Construction Manager in India for 25 years, Devinder Bajwa migrated to Canada with his family in 2016.

A few months later while enjoying a summer day in Brampton, he was attracted to a cricket match.

“I played the sport in India and I love it, so I decided to go over and introduce myself when there was a break in play,” Bajwa said.

One of the first players he met was Constable Raj Singh who is the President of the Toronto Police Cricket Club.

“He invited me to join the team which had officers from various police services on it,” recalled Bajwa. “They liked my game and, in 2018, I became a guest player of the Toronto Police Cricket Club. I made a lot of friends and some of them encouraged me to become a police officer.”

Five years ago, he attended a TPS General Information session.

“There were a lot of young people there and, as the oldest member of the group, I didn’t think I would fit in,” said Bajwa, who at age 51, is the graduating class oldest member. “I put policing on the backburner for over two years, but friends kept encouraging me to give it a shot.”

He is assigned to Traffic Services.


Person in police uniform
New Police Constable Latanya Goddard-MillsPhoto: Brent Smyth


In 13 years working security at a local hospital, LaTanya Goddard-Mills interacted a lot with police officers.

“They spoke highly of the Service and were always willing to share their experiences,” she said. “That was a big motivation for me to join Toronto Police. Also, I had reached the ceiling in my previous job and there was nothing more left for me to accomplish.”

Born in Calgary and raised in Durham, Goddard-Mills is assigned to 43 Division.

“I am so excited to be in this position,” she said. “I am looking forward to going out into the community and making a difference.”

As a five-year-old, Vanja Djordjevic and her family settled in 11 Division after migrating from Europe.

Nearly 20 decades later, she is a Toronto Police officer assigned to the Division.

“At a very young age, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Djordjevic noted. “I worked in human resources, but didn’t like sitting at a desk in front of computer all the time. I was not cut out for a nine to five job.”

Djordjevic, who has a degree in psychology, found training challenging and rewarding.

“The training and preparation was very intensive, but I stuck with it. When you are part of as group, it makes it easier for you to want to work hard and succeed.”


Police officers first bump
Constable Vanja Djordjevic accepts congrats from fellow grads after receiving her badgePhoto: Brent Smyth


Several awards were presented at the graduation ceremony.

Trevor Osborne earned the High Academic Achievement Award with a mark of 99 per cent, Robie Oberoi was the recipient of the Harry Mayzell Leadership Award, Hunter Zimmerman captured the High Performance in Fitness Award, Samer Fawzi won the Most Improved Fitness Award and Lynette Smith was recognized for Drill, Dress & Deportment.

The Glen Cole Memorial Award was presented to class valedictorian Jarret Whelan.

“We shared many hardships together,” he said in his address. “In our time with TPS, five officers died in the line of duty in Canada, including Constable Andrew Hong, who was with Traffic Services. We have felt the support of the policing community and the public in their passing and we had one another to rely on as well. Their sacrifices shall not be forgotten.”

Each graduating class supports a charity.

This group chose Good Shepherd Ministries that provide challenged people with food, shelter, clothing and housing. The graduates bought food, toiletries and clothing to support underhoused clients.

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