The first time Nishan Duraiappah laid eyes on Milton, Ontario, it was as a six-year-old Sri Lankan immigrant.
An only child, Duraiappah arrived in this country when just a year old and after a brief time in Toronto, moved to one of Milton’s first new subdivisions.
Today, 31 years later, as Duraiappah surveys the much-altered and densely populated Milton landscape, it’s as inspector, 1 District (Milton and Halton Hills) of the Halton Regional Police Service.
Duraiappah may be new to the job, but not to the community. His multi-faceted and accomplished career began as a uniform police officer patrolling the streets of Milton, Halton Hills and Burlington. He served the police services in a multitude of capacities throughout the region, but remained broadly ensconced in this community as family man, coach, musician and teammate.
In a relatively short period of time, he has shot through the ranks and distinguished himself in criminal investigations, and as an investigator in the drugs and morality unit where he worked for four years. He was seconded to the RCMP for a brief period of time and then promoted to sergeant as diversity and cultural co-ordinator working out of headquarters and for the police chief.
In this position, Duraiappah was responsible for the co-ordination of all cultural relations forged by the police service and represented the chief of police and the service as primary contact. He also co-ordinated all internal diversity and cultural training for police so that “they understood the changing community which we were policing.”
A reciprocal component of this job was also allowing newcomers an opportunity to learn of policing here in Canada through outreach, he says.
Rather than this position being launched in response to a need, it served as a proactive approach to accommodate the increasingly diverse and fast growing communities within Halton, he says.
It was designed to accommodate not just the region’s cultural diversity, but other segments of the population such as the deaf community, those with disabilities and multi-faith communities.
“We as an organization need to be connected. Everybody here within the region deserves the same equitable policing services. For us not to be progressive, to not be understanding of the needs of every citizen, is for the police service not to live up to its core function,” he says.
Having worked with many other police organizations across the province, he has always been proud of how advanced Halton police are in their cultivation of working partnerships with community leaders, so that when issues arise, contacts are a mere phone call away.
After serving as a patrol sergeant and detective in Burlington, Duraiappah was promoted to staff sergeant as executive officer to the deputy chief of operations, then assigned as manager of drugs and morality, guns and gangs and firearms units, which led to his current promotion.
Duraiappah says he’s fortunate to have been given the opportunities in policing he has, and happy to have contributed in each of them.
Halton is one of the safest communities nationally and has the benefit of being ahead of the curve, says Duraiappah. Without the demands imposed on police in large urban centres, Halton can take the lead with innovative new projects. One of those programs initiated in the 1980’s led to Duraiappah’s career choice.
In his last year at Milton District High School, a 17-year-old Duraiappah participated in the Police Ethnic and Cultural Education (PEACE) Program, a summer placement initiative designed to attract a diverse group of students and expose them to a broad range of policing functions.
“I met a few people who really extended themselves to me and made the experience pivotal to me,” he says.
So profound was the experience that he maintained those relationships throughout his post-secondary education at University of Toronto where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Sociology. He then went on to the Ontario Police College and was deployed in his hometown.
In terms of policing over the years, Duraiappah says community needs haven’t changed, however, the way police respond to those needs has. People still desire safe, quiet communities, free of disorder, whether they’re in older core areas or sprawling new developments, he says.
There are contemporary slants to issues involving youth and fraud, for example, which drive how police respond, he says.
“As an organization, policing has become more sensitive to the changing needs of the community. For example, we have increased focus on assisting victims, youth and investigations pertaining to elderly, as well as technological crimes,” says Duraiappah.
“Officers have become more technologically advanced. As an organization we continue to grow. Our mechanisms get better.”
The current face of the police force is young and diverse, itself a reflection of the community it represents, he says. He feels his time immersed in a broad spectrum of policing gives him a firm foundation for his new post.
At 37, he’s also not that far-removed from his patrol days and he has a young family — three children under 6 — so he understands the demands of job and family.
He’s excited and optimistic about his new role and fiercely proud of his officers.
“This is my community too. I still coach soccer in Milton. My closest friends are still here. I never left Milton. All my roots, my connections are here,” he says.
To return to the community where it all began, “is not part of my doing, but of my fortune,” he adds.
“I want the people of Milton to know they absolutely have some of the best police, and I want to ensure it stays that way, that the changing needs of this community are met.
“Internally, my role is to make sure I look after my people, that they are equipped and led in a way that allows them to achieve the very best as police officers for this municipality.”
Duraiappah says he will lead by example; he plans to be out in front with his officers and their supervisors so that Miltonians “see us all as one team providing police services for this community.” [courtesy: InsideHalton.com]