Toronto police officers who went above and beyond honoured at annual gala

Dozens of Toronto police officers gathered Tuesday evening to honour the outstanding men and women in their ranks at the 51st annual Beyond the Call of Duty awards, hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Const. Kile Blanchard named 2017 Police Officer of the Year

Const. Kile Blanchard, the 2017 Police Officer of the Year, poses with Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. (Toronto Region Board of Trade)

Dozens of Toronto police officers gathered Tuesday evening to honour outstanding men and women in their ranks at the 51st annual Beyond the Call of Duty awards, hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

Twelve awards were given out to various officers, groups of officers, and civilians — one for each month of last year.   

"It's a great night. It's a positive night," said Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack.

Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack says the annual event is full of tales of bravery, heroism and humanitarianism. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

"We live in an environment and a world where policing is constantly being criticized and we're always seeing a lot of negative things about policing, so it means a lot in the sense of validation for the officers," he said. 

2017 Police Officer of the Year

A special committee also revealed the 2017 Police Officer of the year, Const. Kile Blanchard.

While working in 43 Division's Youth and Family Violence Unit, Blanchard received information about a father who was sexually assaulting his daughter on a regular basis.

He ensured the victim received proper support and counselling and also developed a strong connection with her as the investigation and court proceedings continued. 

A panel of crime reporters, business leaders and community members choose the winners of the various awards. (Taylor Simmons/CBC)

Blanchard's work on the case meant the girl never had to testify at the preliminary trial.

The accused pled guilty to several charges.

The girl also eventually returned to tell Blanchard about further abuse she experienced, resulting in more charges.

'Annual reality check'

Selecting the winner is up to a team of crime reporters, business leaders and community members.

"Choosing the winners is difficult," said Christopher Worth, Chair of the Toronto Police Officer of the Year Committee.

"Kind of the main criteria we're looking for is superior investigative skills, good, solid police work ... we're looking for humanitarianism, we're looking for bravery and every story is unique."

For Worth, Blanchard stood out because of his dogged determination and drive to dig deeper.

"It's the superior investigative skills that won out this year, someone who really did just not want to give up on this particular case," he explained. 

Each person on the committee is also a volunteer.

Worth, who works as a real estate agent, has participated for 18 years and chaired the committee for seven.

"It's what I like to call my annual reality check," he said. "In a lot of jobs, you can have a bad day. At no point did anybody try to hit me, shoot me, stab me, spit on me, attack me. I kind of go, 'You know what? I don't think I've had a bad day in my life really.' What these men and women do on a day to day basis, I can't even imagine it."

Other officers honoured at the event prevented burglaries, saved lives and made major arrests.

None of them made acceptance speeches.

"The people in this room are very humble," McCormack said.

"This is what we do in policing, and you know what, it's not a group or an individual who are winners tonight, I think all the officers and civilians are winners tonight, and the people, the citizens, all of us who live in Toronto, we're winners tonight," he continued. 

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said that with so many officers doing great work, he has "no idea" how the committee of judges comes up with winners each year. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders echoed the sentiment, saying he's thankful the event offers friends and family a chance to see the amazing work their loved ones do.

"Most people that join policing don't sign up to receive awards and accolades, they sign up because they want to make a positive difference," he said.