ITHACA, NY - After a barbecue at Southside Community Center, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber pulled Mayor Svante Myrick aside and told him he’d found a new police officer at the community outreach event.
“I said, 'Chief, you can't just pick up somebody off the street; this is a tough job,’” Myrick recalled Monday.
But Barber wasn’t recommending just anybody. He wanted Colin Hayward Toland, 9, to join the force and fulfill the boy’s dream of becoming a police officer.
That dream became a reality Monday as Myrick swore Colin in.
At the July barbecue, Barber learned of Colin's nearly lifelong battle with brain cancer. His parents told Barber the boy's dream. Though they told him Colin "likes coffee," Barber mused, Colin was "not so good at fighting crime." So, Colin thought it would be best to be a police receptionist.
"From what I've learned over the last few months, Colin possesses exactly what it takes to be an officer," Barber said. "He possesses courage, bravery, compassion and tenacity. Colin is by far the strongest 9-year-old I have ever met."
Those qualities were recognized Monday afternoon.
Before a crowd of more than 100 of his classmates and police officers from as far away as Auburn and Cortland, Colin was driven to a swearing-in ceremony in a police SUV, lights flashing. His classmates at Northeast Elementary School chanted his name — "Colin! Colin!" — all the way to the pavilion's front steps.