UTM alumnus named valedictorian of Ontario Police College graduating class

Ryan Wong at Peel Police
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 2:09pm
Sharon Aschaiek

A long-time interest in the law led University of Toronto Mississauga graduate Ryan Wong to pursue police training, but hard work and dedication, combined with the foundational education and communication skills he gained at UTM, led to him be chosen as valedictorian of the most recent Ontario Police College graduating class.

Wong, who completed an undergraduate degree in political science and history at UTM in 2012, was one of 240 recruits who recently completed police training through the college, and he beat out seven other applicants to be granted the esteemed title. 

“Being selected as valedictorian was indescribable — it was a huge honor and a humbling experience, especially since it’s such a competitive process,” says Wong who, along with his co-applicants, had to deliver a five-minute practice valedictorian speech that was judged by several police officers.

Being a lawyer with a focus on international law was the original plan for the native of London, Ont. He completed an internship at a law firm in his home city the summer after completing high school to get experience in the field. His family then moved to Mississauga, and he turned to UTM for his undergraduate degree to learn about the evolution and current practices of law and government in countries worldwide. In his last year, he completed a thesis on the development of the one-country, two-system government in place in Hong Kong and China.

While at UTM, Wong worked part-time as a security guard, first at UTM’s pub, The Blind Duck, and later at the CN Tower. After he graduated, he took the next step towards a law career and enrolled in a continuing education law course at U of T’s St. George Campus called Drugs and the Law. However, his security guard experiences had left a lasting impression, as did an inspiring older cousin who worked for the Toronto Police Service, and he became interested in a more hands-on law-enforcement career.

“I realized I wouldn’t feel at home in a stagnant office environment. Policing was my next best option, as it satisfied my thirst for knowledge of the law, and incorporated an active lifestyle,” says the 24-year-old.

Wong signed up for the OPC’s 12-week constable basic training course, which is required for all police officers in the province. Taking place at a facility in Aylmer, Ont., this academically and physically rigorous course teaches the laws and procedures front-line officers apply on the job. The training site included a fake town complete with homes and restaurants in which students had to intervene in simulated crimes, such as a bar fight, a traffic violation and a domestic dispute. Participants even practised pursuing a fleeing “criminal” by car at night.

“It was very exciting — definitely the best part of OPC was doing those real-life scenarios, and applying the knowledge you learned,” he says.

At the OPC graduation ceremony earlier this month, Wong emphasized in his valedictorian speech one of the biggest highlights of the training — the new, strong community he had developed at the college, or as he described it, “it’s like packing five-year friendships into three months.” He is now part of Peel Regional Police, and is participating in five weeks of post-OPC training that involves coaching by an experienced police officer.

Wong credits UTM for helping him develop the discipline and the communication skills — through writing papers and making presentations — which he says paved the way to his policing career.

“UTM was definitely a huge help towards me getting into policing altogether,” Wong says. “My education there provided the building blocks for where I am today.”