Leslieville Lives; Stories from the ‘Ville – Jon Morrice
Meet Jon Morrice. Many of you know him from the I Am A Leslievillian Facebook group and other east side groups as the ‘Facebook Cop’. Jon took over the job from Rob MacDonald in 2013 and has made quite an impression on local residents. Having not met or seen Jon before, I was wondering who the young whippersnapper was who greeted me at the door of 55 Division the day we met.
Jon belies his 42 years. The married father of one could easily be mistaken for a 25 year old. My first words after he introduces himself? ‘You look so different than I pictured – and young!’ He laughs and confirms my assumption. ‘Well, you probably remember Rob and just put my name and his face to Facebook posts’. Kind of true. Not that Rob was old by any means, but I did picture Rob when I saw Jon’s posts. Funny how we do that. Being in my mid- 50s, everyone looks ‘young’ to me. Not only youthful looking, Jon has the energy of a 25 year old. After 7 years at 41 Division as a ‘uniform and front line’ officer, which translated means out doing calls, domestic violence issues, shootings etc., Jon was transferred to 55 Division in 2008. Rob MacDonald’s unexpected retirement as the Crime Prevention & Social Media Officer found Jon in the hotseat. You wouldn’t know it, but before Jon took over he knew nothing about Facebook, Twitter or social media in general. ‘It was a trial by fire’ he laughs. His son was born right about the time he took on this job and laughs as he mimes feeding the baby and answering tweets and Facebook notifications at the same time.
He admits at first that he was a bit ‘too’ gung ho and was answering every comment and posting far too much. ‘You may have noticed I’ve brought it down a notch. I started to feel that the fear of crime was worse than crime itself’. I have noticed there are fewer posts now, and for someone who is currently on 40 local Facebook groups and 2 Twitter accounts you have to be good at time management. He’s grown to be fairly passionate about the power of social media and how it has become an incredible tool in helping within the community. Jon works the ‘bike beat’ and has created several programmes that have really created a sense of community between residents and police. One is CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) which looks at physical landscapes and the age old question ‘why did they rob my house and not that house?’ conundrum. Every morning he’ll get his DCAS (Daily Crime Activity Sheet) and the first priority is to meet with victims of break-ins and calls that occurred in the past 24 hours. He calls it ‘Flying the Flag’, another way of reassuring residents there is a police presence and that they care. He definitely seems to care. For those that haven’t seen his posts, they not only show his sense of humour (the holiday/event posts ie; Valentine’s, the Jays opener etc) but give great advice and the all-important reminders not to drink & drive. Then there’s the BETS (Break & Enter Tips). When I ask him if being an officer on Facebook brings notoriety or criticism, he purses his lips, raises his eyebrows and smiles. ‘Both. There will always be people dying to come down on a cop, so Facebook is the perfect medium. It’s relatively anonymous and that part is hard but overall I find that being a cop on Facebook and social media, in general, brings respect vs criticism’.
Jon grew up in the Beach so he laughs a bit when we talk about criticism and respect. ‘It’s hard for me sometimes because I live in the Beach now and see people I grew up with and their parents who find it hard to see me as a law enforcer, as well as having to ‘reprimand’ young teenagers who are doing things I did in my own youth’. When I ask him if he’s ever scared going to work he says, ‘No, but I’m cautious; especially on a bike. On the upside, we talk and hang out with many homeless or regular residents who prefer to take to the streets than be anywhere else. They can be very helpful and have oftentimes given us tips, tell us they saw something etc. We’ve also tried to offer them shelter, food, water etc. Many will take the drinks, but rarely if ever the shelter’. One person he talks about fondly is Mikey Moquin who recently passed away. Jon remembers Mikey as a great guy who was a Leslieville resident for many years. ‘We talked with him a lot’. Another is Rocky (who many of you may know) who had Boss, the dog. ‘Rocky is pretty harmless. He can be very helpful to us so we keep our relationship with him a good one. It’s really the perfect job for me. I love meeting people, engaging with community residents, love to get people out of their houses and on the streets and engaged. That’s why I’m so fond of people with dogs. They are out when most are at home/work/in bed, and become a kind of neighbourhood watch’. He gets misty eyed talking about dogs. He hasn’t gotten another one since his Golden Retriever Billie passed away about 12 years ago at the age of 16. ‘I just can’t bring myself to go through that again’. I can relate to losing a beloved pet but reassure him the best thing to do is get another one in need. He agrees. ‘Yeah, you’re right’, but I have a feeling Billie will be taking up the lion’s share of his heart for a while longer. On that note, he quickly changes the mood and topic. ‘Time to get back on the beat!’ He gives me a quick tour of 55, stops for a few jokes with fellow officers and gets his bike road-ready. If you haven’t met/seen Jon or recognized him riding past you, you will now. Stop him on the street and say ‘Hi’. I know he’d love that.