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At York Regional Police, employees can learn about perspectives from both civilian and uniformed roles through its mentorship program.Supplied

For York Regional Police (YRP) purchasing clerk Jathusana Chandra, 26, two terms as a summer student, a stint of part-time work and four years of full-time employment with the service still don’t mean she’s finished onboarding in any real sense. And as someone who wants to learn in a workplace she believes is dedicated to teaching – formally and informally – Chandra thinks she is very well placed.

“There are just so many opportunities here,” Chandra says. “With the job shadowing and mentoring, you can experience many different roles you might not have thought of for yourself.” From the start, YRP members were happy to help. “Even when I was a summer student, everyone was so willing to share their knowledge and support,” says Chandra. “It’s actually the culture of the place, and I could see myself growing and working here a long time.”

In the mentorship program, Chandra was linked with a detective constable. “That was a really cool experience,” says Chandra, “because, as a civilian, I don’t really see the operational side of things. You may not think a civilian and a uniformed officer would have much to say to each other, but I got to see her perspective on her job. And we talked about how we approach situations in a way that really broadened my outlook.”

That’s the kind of workplace YRP has been striving for, says deputy chief, administration, Cecile Hammond, whose responsibilities include recruitment and retention. “We have created an environment that attracts people,” Hammond says, “by taking a lot of steps to put them first.” Those include measures to improve work-life balance, from flexible shift hours to job-sharing, and a robust emphasis on members’ physical and mental wellness.

YRP has staff psychologists, a social worker who works with families – “because a lot of our members understandably take their jobs home,” says Hammond – as well as physiotherapists and massage therapists that members can access 24/7 through the service’s wellness resources app. “The changes in recent years are astronomical, especially for someone like me coming from a generation where we were taught what happens is just the job – you suck it up, you deal with it,” says Hammond, a 25-year veteran. “Now we recognize that’s not the way to go.”

Generational transition was a key impetus for change, says Hammond. “We are very much alive to the fact that youth today seek more input into shaping their future, and their expectations demand more of us as an organization.” There are now more ways into YRP – the summer student program has doubled in size – and, once inside, more ways to explore the wide-ranging possibilities of a police career, through mentorship, job shadowing, student cadets and financial support for continuing higher education.

“We need to ensure that young people feel included, trusted and heard,” Hammond says. “An inclusive workplace means our members will serve the needs of the community at a higher level, that they’ll pay it forward.”

Chandra agrees. After she learned that YRP’s IT director had a math degree, “I have a BA in math, so I sent her an e-mail to ask if she had time to discuss my career and how she came to her position,” says Chandra. “I was a bit nervous doing that, but she was so gracious and helpful in talking about her career and where mine might go. It was a very big deal for me, seeing people in positions like hers willing to share their experiences. It made me think that when I reach a point like this in my career, that’s what I will do.”

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