Behind the scenes with the cops at Youth Day
KJ Mullins-Toronto: When Toronto Police constables speak at community events they are often off the clock putting in extra hours hoping to be put of a positive change for the city. Today newz4u.net followed three officers while they prepared to go to this year’s Youth Day event in Toronto.
Today was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and a day off for RCMP Cst. Valerie Paradis and Toronto Police Constables Tony Vella and Scott Mills. Despite heavy work loads the three arrived at Toronto Police Headquarters at around 3:30 p.m. in order to prep for going on stage at Youth Day. They were scheduled to be on stage at 6:00 p.m. Vella was the first to arrive with Mills and Paradis arriving shortly after. Mills had also brought several community leaders from Toronto Community Housing with him.
The first order of business was going from their street clothes and putting on their uniforms. Those uniforms are not suited for a day where the temperature hovered at 31C. Heavy bullet proof vests for Vella and Mills though was cool compared to the wool red Mountie jacket that Paradis was wearing. While the officers suited up community members that work with youth at Toronto Community Housing checked out the media room at police headquarters. The community leaders were able to answer a few questions about the youth violence that they see in their daily work lives and some issues that they have faced. They like others that live in TCH have issues concerning the security guards that work at TCH, finding several that aren’t doing their jobs. At the recent shooting at Danzig Street where two people were killed last Monday there have been questions as to why the security guards didn’t close down the party when noise became an issue two hours prior to the violence.
As the fully uniformed officers entered the room the questions ended. Excited about the days events photos were posed for and plans of how to travel the few blocks we discussed.
The group ventured to College Subway station to travel to Dundas Square. As the group entered into Dundas Square Vella and Mills started to look for CP24 who had already requested interviews. A quick meet up with the reporter the interview was scheduled. While waiting for the media to be ready the group quickly went to the volunteer booth to get their armbands so that they would be allowed to go on stage. During this time the officers were able to connect with Youth Day founder Tylaine Duggan and her daughter Penny so that they could get the action moving.
During this time Mills and Vella also talked to other officers working in the area about what was going on for the day and started using Twitter to tweet about the event.
In her Mountie uniform Paradis was approached like a movie star constantly with requests for photos. She confided that this is very common for all Mounties when they are at public events in their uniform.
While Vella finished up with the media Mills and Paradis went to a tent where the community was asked to write their wishes on the walls. Using purple magic markers the two did the same. Vella joined the group but was quickly approached by other media for interviews.
Mills said that events like the one today are very needed to help build a bridge between the community and the police. “Joining together with the RCMP, Toronto Housing and other community leaders is unprecedented in Toronto,” Mills stressed happily, “This is a great show of unity with the Toronto Police and the community.”
The rain ended just in time for the group to move to back stage with just minutes to spare. As they moved onto the stage the crowds quickly formed to see what was about to happen.
Tylaine Duggan called for a moment of silence to remember those who had been killed during acts of violence on the streets of Toronto. As the silence lifted it was time for speeches by Vella, Mills and other community leaders.
The time after the speeches was spent talking with the community, posing for pictures and more media interviews. It would be almost two more hours before Vella, Mills and Paradis would walk up Yonge Street to return to headquarters.
On the walk Vella confided that Mills is one of the hardest working officers on the force. “Scott just goes all the time. He did a lot of work on his own time to make sure this event was special. People don’t see the work that we do behind the scenes with community planning,” Vella said. Vella didn’t mention the fact that he ended his own vacation week a day short in order to be part of the event.
Paradis said that today was her one day off in the past 30 days. She said she was happy to be part of Youth Day and hopes that the RCMP and the TPS continue to work together with community building.
At police headquarters the three officers finally were able to take off their heavy uniforms and relax. They will all be back on the clock in the morning but tonight they were going home happy with the way the day went.