Tribute to Training Pioneer

Arafat Rahman

The Toronto Police College (TPC) auditorium has been renamed after late Staff Superintendent Darren Smith, who was the first unit commander of the learning centre that opened 13 years ago.

He died on December 19, 2012 after battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 52.

Smith joined the Service in 1979 and spent much of his career working with recruits at C.O. Bick College in Scarborough. The former head of the training and education unit also oversaw the transition to the new sprawling training facility in Etobicoke in 2009.

During his 33-year career with TPC, Smith played a leading role in enhancing police training models through technology. In addition to leading the creation and management of an in-house e-learning development unit at the TPC, his progressive vision helped drive change in positive and fundamental ways across the Canadian police sector.

Lesli Smith thanked the Service for dedicating the auditorium in her late husband’s memory.

“This is a College that Darren was so proud of,” she said. “He loved being a member of the Toronto Police Service and he was so proud to be a police officer and to have the opportunity to be in a senior leadership role with this organization.”

He was a close colleague of Chief James Ramer, who retires 10 years to the day that Smith passed away.

“Education was so important to Darren and he wanted the profession to professionalize,” Chief Ramer said. “He was a huge advocate for it and it is something that has followed me through my career.”

Ramer said Smith, who continued to work with the Service after his diagnosis, was an excellent police officer who contributed significantly to the design of the TPC.

Aisling Smith, Chief Ramer’s Executive Assistant, served in a similar role with Smith for several years.

“Darren was unique to himself,” she said. “He was funny as hell and had a masterful command of hard-to-pronounce and hard-to-spell words. His description of things were wildly entertaining. If he cared about you, you knew it. He was kind, generous and helpful.”

Retired Deputy Chief Mike Federico was a good friend of Smith.

He said Smith left a passion within the TPC for service excellence through continual learning.

“Darren was a mentor to many and a public servant for all,” said Federico, who retired in 2017 after 45 years with the Service. “He had a personality that everybody could warm to. One of his lasting contributions to Toronto Police and policing across the country was his personal commitment to lifelong learning. Today’s tribute is more than just Darren because though he had an ego, he was also a humble person and would want to share the triumphs that he enjoyed with those who supported him.”

Naming the auditorium after Smith, noted Federico, is fitting.

“It is part of a learning facility and it is a big space where knowledge can be shared, perspectives debated and decisions arrived at,” he said. “I also think it is fitting because Darren’s personality would just about fit in this room.”

TPC Unit Commander Superintendent Frank Barredo said Smith positively contributed to the policing landscape countrywide.

“As far back as 1989, I recall a then Constable Darren Smith who was tough as nails as was his way, putting my fellow cadets in training through rigorous and demanding training exercises,” he recounted. “Years later in 2009, I found myself as a staff sergeant at this very College with Superintendent Smith as my unit commander. No less demanding as a superintendent as he was as a constable, his leadership of this unit installed him in my memory as a forward-thinking leader who developed character and minds.”

He was widely recognized as a leader and innovator in law enforcement for conceiving several ground-breaking initiatives. He assisted in the creation of the Use of Force Model and was the first police officer to provide expert testimony on the model in the courts, thus having it accepted by the judiciary.

Smith also facilitated the first Garda and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) meeting at the FBI Academy during the RUC’s restructuring, played a major role in the establishment of the Community Mobilization Unit, authored the Service’s e-learning nearly three decades ago and was instrumental in supporting and streamlining the Service’s training program.

A decade ago, the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN) — a non-profit corporation that provides e-learning designed by Canadian police services for police officers — established the F. Darren Smith Award of Excellence to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the late officer who assisted in building and facilitating technology-enhanced learning within Canada’s police community.

The award honours individuals in the Canadian police community who demonstrate outstanding leadership, commitment and vision for the advancement of technology-enhanced learning (TEL).

A graduate of St. Francis Xavier University with an adult education degree, the University of Guelph with a Master’s and the Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston, Smith also completed several executive development programs at York University, the Ontario Police College and the Canadian Police College.

In addition, he taught at several institutions, including Humber College and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.

Outside policing, Smith loved martial arts.

He had a Shihan 9th degree black belt, was a YKKF International technical director and instructed students around the world.

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