Under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the role of an auxiliary constable is to assist sworn police constables in the execution of their duties, as well as to aid in community policing. For more than 43 years, York Regional Police Auxiliary Staff Sgt. Thomas Ungar, now retired, did just that.
Q: What was auxiliary policing like when you first started in 1975?
Auxiliary policing was very different back then from what it is now. We certainly didn’t have the technology or level of training we have today. As auxiliary policing was relatively new in Ontario then, auxiliary police officers were looked at with a level of curiosity as to why anyone would want to do this job for free. Auxiliary officers were not as well accepted by some of the “older generation” of sworn officers as they are today and there was not nearly the level of community involvement and partnership that there is today.
Q: You were working full time in engineering… Why did you want to get involved in this volunteer role as well?
Since my early teenage years, I had always been interested in a career in law enforcement. However, due to the perceived risk factor my parents steered me toward a career in engineering. When I found out about the auxiliary police unit in Toronto, I thought that this would not only be a good way to get involved in law enforcement, but also an excellent way to give back to the community.
Q: How did you stay balanced with the auxiliary commitment as well as your full-time job?
I was very fortunate throughout my career that I had steady 8:30 to 4:30 hours, Monday to Friday. This allowed me to manage my time and get very involved in auxiliary policing.
Q: What does the word auxiliary mean to you?
I look at the word “auxiliary” as an integral part of a police service, in a support role. It means to assist in meeting the needs of many of the community-oriented functions. Auxiliary officers can also be looked as the “ambassadors” between the police service and the community. Over time most police services have realized the value-added component of auxiliary units and I saw an ongoing positive evolution in recruiting, selection, training, uniforms and the deployment of auxiliary officers.
Q: What was the difference between working for TPS and YRP?
While both Toronto and York are excellent police services, I found that York provides more of a “grass roots” community involvement for auxiliary officers. This is perhaps due to the fact that York is a smaller organization at this time and relies heavily on their auxiliary unit to achieve many of the community-oriented goals. It appears to me that York places more responsibility on the unit. However, with more responsibilities comes more accountability. In my opinion, that is a good thing.
Q: Why tackle a degree in criminology next?
I have always placed a very high value on continuing education and learning came very easy to me. Over the years I completed the Investigative Studies and Police Science program and the Human Resources Program at Seneca College, as well as several management courses. One of the goals on my “bucket list” has always been to complete a degree program in criminology, out of personal interest. Now that I have the time, I can.
Q: What do you miss the most since retiring?
I really miss the daily interaction within the police family. Both TPS and YRP have been very good to me and treated me with respect and appreciation for my involvement.
Q: What was your most memorable moment in auxiliary policing?
I have many memorable moments, too numerous to mention here. With TPS, it was working out of the old 3 District Traffic Unit and riding the Harley Davidsons for four years. As an auxiliary superintendent in my later years with TPS, it was heading up a newly created Auxiliary H.R. Unit and being hands on in the recruitment, selection and training of new recruit classes – up to 54 recruits annually – and guiding them towards graduation. With YRP, I won an award in 2011 and in 2015 for having the highest number of hours in the unit. It was the professional treatment I had from the sworn officers that I worked with – especially members of 2 District COR Unit where I was assigned for most of my auxiliary career with YRP – that is most memorable.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the job?
Dealing with very difficult situations on some calls I attended, where my heart went out to the victims and their families. However, you have to stay professional and do the best you can under the circumstances. At times I saw people at their worst and it made me appreciate how fortunate I am with my lot in life.
Q: And the most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect was the knowledge that I made a bit of a positive contribution and difference in the community each and every shift – a small piece of the puzzle in the bigger picture. I felt a high degree of satisfaction in having had the opportunity to mentor many of the less experienced auxiliary officers, many of whom were eventually hired as sworn constables.
Q: What advice do you have for others curious about auxiliary?
Becoming an auxiliary police officer is an excellent way to find out if policing is for you or not. You get to see the good, the bad and everything in-between so that you can make an educated decision. It is also an excellent way of giving back to the community for those who have no aspirations of becoming a sworn officer.
Q: What is your message to the policing community regarding the importance of auxiliary units?
In my opinion, in this age of fiscal responsibility, tight resources and accountability, auxiliary units can provide a lot of value-added services the police service would otherwise be unable to deliver to the community. While an auxiliary police officer does not replace a sworn officer, they certainly augment and support the community-based policing model – where partnerships are a must.