Policing excellence and citizen heroes honoured at SSP Service Recognition Awards

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Service Excellence Award

Recipients must have completed 20 or more years of service with the South Simcoe Police Service or one or more recognized Canadian police services.

Special Constable Elisabeth Aschwanden

Elisabeth began her career with the service as a part time dispatcher, she was then hired full time in our Information Services Unit and then became a Special Constable assigned to the Court Unit before taking on her current role as a member of the Community Mobilization and Engagement Unit. While working under this unit, she has developed numerous engaging and educational pieces for our communities. One we are very familiar with is her Citizens Police Academy (CPA) ‘Seniors Edition’. Last year, Elisabeth developed a second CPA with a focus on Newcomers to Canada. She is the driving force behind her Caring with Cards and Carnations campaign where each household at Sandycove Acres (as well as other residences in Bradford and Innisfil) received a handmade card from a local student. This year 2175 cards were hand delivered to seniors in our communities! Elisabeth sits on numerous committees and is a longtime volunteer with various organizations. She has twice been presented with the Community Safety and Crime Prevention award and is a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee medal.

Citizen Award

Tara Broughton

On December 21st, 2023, at approximately 4:20 p.m., Tara Broughton, while off-duty, was driving through a residential area in the town of Bradford. At this time, Tara noticed a large amount of smoke and fire in a garage, so she stopped, exited her vehicle, and alerted the family in the home that they needed to evacuate immediately. The family was completely unaware of the fire.  Tara also called 911. The South Simcoe Police Service received a call from Bradford Fire about a fully engulfed structure fire. Upon arrival, police spoke to the homeowner and determined that the residence was evacuated and vacant of all persons and animals. It was discovered that the owner and three generations of family were in the residence when Tara alerted them of the fire. Thank you, Tara, for your commitment to ensuring the safety of our citizens and avoiding a potential tragedy.

Citizen Award

Sujay Sunny and Stephanie Gillard

On May 9th, 2023, at approximately 4:50 p.m., a collision between an SUV and a motorcyclist occurred on County Road 88, near Highway 400, in the town of Bradford. As a result, the motorcyclist came to rest on top of the SUV and sustained critical injuries. After the collision, several people stopped but two notable citizens jumped into action in an attempt to save the motorcyclists’ life. Sujay Sunny and Stephanie Gillard climbed onto the roof of the SUV and commenced CPR on the motorcyclist. The two ‘strangers’ worked together performing CPR and continued until relieved by emergency services personnel. Sujay and Stephanie are recognized for their valiant efforts to try and save the motorcyclist’s life. Even though he did not survive, you both went above and beyond to try and save him. Thank you both for your commitment to our communities.

Community Support Award

Linda Donaher

Linda owns Linda’s Floral Designs in Bradford. Linda has been an invaluable asset to our communities for many years now. She has donated just shy of 1000 carnations to various community campaigns over the years. The Caring with Cards and Carnations campaign is just one of the many initiatives Linda Supports. The campaign reaches close to 2000 seniors. She also donated numerous poinsettias around the holidays to brighten up our communities. Linda also donated to last years’ Service Recognition Awards Night and donated the arrangements we have here tonight. Linda, through your flowers, you have brought smiles and comfort to many faces in our communities. Thank you for your unwavering support.

Award for Excellence in Traffic Safety

Constable Amanda Noel

In 2023, members of the Service made 135 impaired driving related arrests resulting in 238 criminal charges. Constable Amanda Noel had the highest number of impaired driving arrests in the Service. Constable Noel was directly responsible for identifying and arresting 10 people for impaired driving offences and assisted her fellow officers with several other impaired related calls. Amanda has developed the skills to identify signs of impairment and remove impaired drivers from our roadways while on general patrol, while responding to driving complaints and while conducting RIDE programs. As a junior officer she has developed a sincere interest and focus in impaired driving-related investigations and should be commended for her efforts to make our roadways safer. Impaired driving investigations can be tricky, challenging even more senior officer’s skills. But Amanda learned quickly. Congratulations Amanda and thank you for your commitment to road safety in our communities.

Award for Excellence in Emergency Response/Life Saving

Constable Davis Benson
Constable Daniel Emiliani
Sergeant Mike Huck
Retired Constable Mike Kayser

On October 8th, 2023, police received a call about a 29-year-old male threatening to commit suicide in the Town of Innisfil, where he resided alone. Information surfaced about the potential that the male could be in possession of firearms based on his past possession of guns and suicide threats. The officers staged nearby the house at the Morgan Russell Memorial Arena with a crisis worker and Simcoe County EMS. A plan was developed, and attempts were made to phone the male and ask him to meet the officers outside. When police approached the house, they observed a note on the front door that read “DNR – I’m Sorry”. The officers could hear noises from inside the residence that sounded like a person was in imminent distress and the decision was made to enter the residence through the unlocked front door due to the exigency of the situation. The male was found with a cloth house coat belt tied around a doorknob and around his neck and he was choking. The male struggled to prevent officers from forcibly removing the belt while standing him up. Police officers have a duty to protect life. Thankfully, the officers were able to prevent the suicide attempt and save the male’s life. Their teamwork resulted in a safe resolution to a potentially dangerous situation and there is little doubt that their quick intervention saved the man’s life.

Award for Excellence in 911 Communications

Communicator Susan Bolam
Communicator Mandy Burns
Communicator Karen Struthers
Communicator Ambar Kottick

On November 2nd, 2023, at approximately 6:30 p.m., police were contacted by a complainant who had gotten himself lost somewhere within Scanlon Creek. The initial call was taken by 911 Communicator Struthers, who was able to guide the male through the process of downloading and installing the What3Words App to his phone and having him provide her with its three unique words. Karen also directed the male to remain at that location until police came, which turned out to be a very important instruction as his phone died shortly after. Had he moved on, it would have made it much more difficult to find him. Communicator Kottick ensured that K9 was dispatched. Communicator Bolam ensured that the responding officers had the correct coordinates of the What3Words app. And Communicator Burns provided relevant updates to responding officers, passing along the information from the other communicators. The male was located very close to the location obtained by the call taker and their quick thinking saved a lot of time and effort to locate the male by way of a traditional ground search.  The communicators did a phenomenal job working together to ensure this person’s safety. Given the time of year, and darkness setting in the male could have been in the bush all night resulting in hypothermia and a threat to his physical health, or worse. Thank you all for your quick action, skilled response, and use of innovative technology to bring this event to a positive ending.

Award for Excellence in Investigation

Detective Sergeant Ben Irwin
Detective Constable Jason Bellamy
Detective Constable Keith Causton
Detective Constable Ashley Keveza
Detective Constable Holly Murray
Detective Constable Andrew Smith
Detective Constable Shawn Strilec
Detective Sergeant Clint McLellan
Detective Constable Mike Avelar
Detective Constable Jason Saville
Detective Constable Dan Raymond
Crime Analyst Krystal Moore

Our awards recipients are being recognized for their work on Project Chameleon. The entire Criminal Investigation Bureau, both Crimes Against Persons and Street Crime, worked together to conduct a thorough and extensive investigation that commenced in May of 2023, following reports that females were being trafficked at a local Innisfil residence. I am pleased to announce that this investigation ultimately resulted in these females being safely removed from this dangerous and exploitative situation. As the investigation progressed, detectives altered their schedules, worked long hours, and took on multiple roles to provide consistent support to ensure that this case was investigated and continued to receive the attention needed to bring it to a successful and safe conclusion. Countless hours were spent drafting warrants, conducting surveillance, reviewing data, and researching suspects and involved persons. This initially resulted in investigators identifying 3 main suspects responsible for exploiting the victims, including posting online advertisements. In November 2023, all the hard work culminated in orchestrated search warrants which included several addresses and vehicles. This involved many resources and a collaboration with other Services beyond anything previously experienced by the South Simcoe Police Service. As a result, the 3 females were safely removed from the lifestyle and their exploitation ended. Detective Sergeant IRWIN and Detective Sergeant MCLELLAN  collaborated to ensure that the two units were working as a cohesive team with their eyes collectively on the investigative goals. Each member of both teams provided valuable assistance on countless occasions to ensure that this case progressed. This investigation was a huge undertaking for this team as they all had unrelated investigations that also required and needed to receive attention. The quality and success of this investigation displays the ability of the members of our Criminal Investigations Bureau to multitask and work as a cohesive unit to bring a large and complex investigation to a successful conclusion. As a result of all this hard work and dedication a human trafficking network was dismantled, 8 suspects were charged with human trafficking or drug related offences, 3 victims were rescued, deadly drugs such a cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl were removed from the community, and a drug distribution network was majorly impacted.

Award for Excellence in Investigation

Detective Constable Dan Raymond

In May of 2022, two suspects confronted a female victim at a Tim Hortons parking lot in the Town of Innisfil. One of the suspects forcefully stole the victim’s car keys and threatened her with a knife before knocking her to the ground. The suspects got into her vehicle and fled the scene. Detective Constable Raymond responded to the call with patrol officers and assessed the scene and evidence. His quick thinking resulted in a detailed canvas utilizing the on-board GPS of the victim’s car which resulted in locating it in a neighboring jurisdiction.  DC Raymond reached out to that Police Service and ensured the vehicle was recovered. Despite the limited evidence that existed at the crime scene, DC Raymond did not give up and chased down leads for over a year, not letting the case get cold. This diligent and tenacious investigative work resulted in the identification of both suspects. After determining that these suspects were hiding in another jurisdiction, DC Raymond involved that police service of jurisdiction and tracked down one of the suspects and arrested him. DC Raymond then interviewed the suspect and obtained a full confession solidifying his involvement in this violent crime. The investigation continues; however, the second suspect’s identity is known and is a matter of time before this person is also brought to justice.

Excellence in Innovation

Special Constable Supervisor Ian Mason
Special Constable Max Brown

Because our court system relies heavily on plea bargains, officers rarely get to testify in criminal court. This has resulted in many younger officers, and even more experienced officers feeling ill equipped and unprepared to testify. Responding to this need, Special Constable Supervisor Mason and Special Constable Brown brought the Mock Trial initiative forward in the spring of 2023. The initiative included “Court Prep” service wide in-service training, facilitated by Mason and Brown. This was a first for our Service. There were two separate “Mock Trial” dates which were attended by over forty (40) members in total. That is an outstanding turn out for voluntary training! The members include platoon Officers and Sergeants, Detective Constables, Community Mobilization and Engagement members, Communicators, and members of IT.  Six (6) Assistant Crown Attorneys attended to facilitate this training. The training was held after court was finished for the day, so the Assistant Crown Attorney’s dedicated their own valuable time to this initiative.  Special Constable Supervisor Mason and Special Constable Brown pulled actual cases that other officers who had gone to trial had participated in, and were completed in the court system. This was extremely valuable for members. The Service is grateful for your problem solving, dedication and outstanding innovation in bringing the Mock Trial initiative forward. It helps to increase the confidence of officers as they prepare to testify in criminal court.

The Unsung Hero Award

Sue Sgambati

This award recognizes an outstanding person who made a significant contribution to improving the South Simcoe Police Service. As the Corporate Communications Coordinator, Sue put her heart and soul into maintaining and enhancing the professional image of the service. Sue is very creative, full of ideas and had a real talent for marketing the Service. Under Sue’s guidance, the social media followers have increased substantially over the years and continue to grow. From Nitro Fridays and Throwback Thursdays to the morning sunrise photos and the northern lights, the loyal followers start their day checking the social media platforms. Sue introduced the Nitro Plush Pups campaign which quickly became a coveted item for many kids at Christmas. The proceeds helped support local charities. Sue’s last project was for the benefit of our members, to create a sense of corporate pride – posting photos throughout the stations showcasing various members of the service.  Sue always stayed in the background putting in countless hours, many times while off duty, in the evening and on weekends, sending out releases or posting on social media, all to enhance the image of the Service. Unfortunately, we recently lost Sue, who moved on to another job, but we want you to know you are very much appreciated. Thank you for the 6 years you gave to the Service and congratulations.

Auxiliary Officer of the Year 2023

Recognizing dedication, professional demeanor, and a positive attitude from an Auxiliary member

Auxiliary Constable Alexya Machado

Auxiliary Machado joined the South Simcoe Police Service as an Auxiliary officer in 2021 through our partnership with Georgian College. Since joining, Auxiliary Machado consistently volunteers for events in both communities with energy and a smile. She is always the first to sign up for details. Her commitment to the service is admirable. Auxiliary Machado is always willing to help anyone in our communities. When dealing with the public and the other members of the service, Alexya acts with professionalism and respect. She truly models the values of the Service. Her hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Recently, Auxiliary Machado was hired by the Service for a Contract Civilian Position.

Auxiliary Outstanding Leadership Award 

Recognizing an Auxiliary member for exemplary leadership and selfless acts of time and dedication to the South Simcoe Police Service

Auxiliary Constable Ryan Gainer Auxiliary Constable Gainer joined the South Simcoe Police Service as an Auxiliary in 2016. Auxiliary Constable Gainer’s commitment to the Service demonstrates his authenticity. He is passionate about his work and passes on his enthusiasm to his fellow unit members. He fosters collaboration, empowers unit members, and motivates them to excel. Ryan acts with utmost integrity and often raises morale within the Service. He truly leads by example. He started working full-time for the York Regional Police in June 2019 as a Special Constable. In February 2023, he was promoted to Coach Officer, and in May 2023, he was made an acting Supervisor. He became a Community Safety Special Constable in February of 2024. Since commencing full-time employment with the York Regional Police, he has continued to honour his commitment and excel as a member of our Auxiliary Unit. Ryan, congratulations and thank you for your exceptional leadership and commitment to the South Simcoe Police Service Auxiliary Unit.

Images provided – South Simcoe Police

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