rafael brusilow/for metro toronto
Keeping the peace can mean hard days, tough crowds and constant dedication, but auxiliary police volunteers like Rose Chiappetta don’t just welcome the work — they do it for free.
Formed in 1957 under the Emergency Measures act, the Toronto Police Auxiliary today has more than 350 members, all of them volunteers. Auxiliaries wear a full uniform and can be identified by their blue shirts (modern police officers wear black shirts) and checkered band around their caps instead of a red band. While some auxiliary members do treat the service as a learning experience on their way to a full police career, Auxiliary Staff Superintendent Ben Lau says many more are simply dedicated members of the community who volunteer their time out of a desire to help others.
“We have people from all walks of life — bankers, engineers, lawyers, you name it. They don’t want to be police officers, they just want to give something back to the community,” Lau said.
A sense of responsibility is what drew Chiappetta to being an auxiliary and what keeps her coming back to volunteer at least 200 hours every year required for membership in the service.
“I think it’s everyone’s social responsibility to give back in any way they can, whether it’s financial or by giving your time. It makes the world a better place,” Chiappetta said.
Chiappetta works at Humber River Regional Hospital’s information desk for her regular job and has been an auxiliary volunteer for five years. In her time with the service she has patrolled the SARS concert, New Year’s Eve celebrations and ran police information booths around the city, among other duties. Like all auxiliary volunteers, she is trained in use of force, restraint of suspects, first-aid, the criminal code and many other relevant skills similar to a real police officer, albeit at a reduced level.
Though she has had to defuse more than her share of tense situations while patrolling, Chiappetta counts herself lucky that she has never had to arrest someone or resort to force to protect herself.
“It’s harder than I thought and more physically demanding than I expected. I have a real appreciation for what our police officers go through on a daily basis,” Chiappetta said.
Volunteers like Chiappetta have to re-qualify themselves for use-of-force training every year and first-aid every three years. For Lau, the hard work he’s done over the course of more than 30 years in the auxiliary service has all been worth it.
“We are community members and we are the bridge between the community and the police service. What it boils down to is people helping people. You can feel real satisfaction in that,” Lau said.