Police play the ‘new kid’ at school

It’s not easy making new friends at high school, even if you’re a police officer.

Instead of patrolling the downtown streets of Toronto, Constable Mo Fadel now roams the hallways of Senator O’Connor High School as part of a joint program with the Catholic School Board.

Senator O’Connor is one of 50 schools to employ officers as part of a relationship building program between students and the police. The program is in its first year and according to Const. Fadel, it took some time for the kids to get used to the idea of trusting a policeman.

“There’s always a few kids not too comfortable with police officers, thinking we’re targeting them, spying on them, but it’s not the case,” he said.

Const.Fadel sensed the tension immediately and decided to take a more active role in the student’s lives.

“I was assisting coaching with the school basketball team and now I’m coaching the school basketball team. So that’s a group of kids right there that all of a sudden opened up to me,” he said.

Const. Fadel believes that Senator O’Connor is no more violent or dangerous than any other high school and was not chosen based on any specific incident.

“Violence can happen anywhere and it’s important that people trust the people enforcing the law,” he said.

For Kent Mendoza, a grade 12 student at Senator O’Connor, trusting the police became difficult after an altercation at his former high school that got him expelled.

“I got jumped by a guy outside school but I still won the fight. Everybody saw it was self-defence but the police still charged me and I got expelled,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza plays on the school football and basketball team and began to see Const. Fadel as just one of the guys.

“After a while he kinda grew on me. I gave him a chance and he helped me out with a lot of things. He told me stuff not to do and I basically became a better person ,” he said.

Although Const. Fadel occasionally misses cruising the streets of Toronto with his fellow officers, he hopes the program continues long enough to see his new friends win a football or basketball championship.

“They work hard and take it serious, it would definitely make me proud of these kids,” he said.