Const. Paban Dhaliwal remembers the name of his high school resource officer but even before that, he says he knew he wanted to be a police officer.
Early, positive exposure to police officers showed Dhaliwal what was possible within a policing career and led him to get creative in how he reaches kids — teaching dance, starting a wrestling club and, more recently, creating gang prevention programs.
The officer, who has been with the Calgary Police Service (CPS) for 18 years, was recently given a Chief's Award for his "career-long dedication to community policing, crime prevention and inspiring youth to choose a different path."
Dhaliwal dedicates his time — on and off the clock — to working with kids and communities, guiding students to make good choices and working on gang prevention initiatives in Calgary's diverse neighbourhoods.
'Countless hours' volunteering
Dhaliwal's side hustle is volunteering.
Despite the demands of a full-time job policing, he's donated what CPS describes as "countless hours" of time dedicated to preparing presentations and programming that has reached thousands of students, parents, teachers and others.
In 2019, more than 200 people from Calgary's northeast South Asian community marched to the District 5 office to protest a perceived lack of police response to gang and drug violence.
Dhaliwal recruited eight CPS members from South Asian communities to help bolster gang prevention programming and presentations.
School dance, wrestling clubs
The officer says he's been fortunate enough to witness some of the impacts of his efforts.
Earlier in his career, Dhaliwal ran an after-school dance club, teaching kids bhangra, an Indian dance.
More than a decade later, one of his students is a CPS officer.
"One of the youth from that club is now part of my team which is just amazing to see him grow and do something positive and is now a police officer and works side by side with me," says Dhaliwal.
When he became a school resource officer, Dhaliwal developed a wrestling team.
Recently, he was approached by a former team member who wanted advice on how to develop his own community-based wrestling club.
An 'amazing' impact
But perhaps the ultimate example that positive interactions with police can change the course of a young person's life is the aftermath of one arrest Dhaliwal made of a high school student.
Not too long ago, Dhaliwal says he was contacted by the former student who wanted him to know that the arrest changed his life and he now works in law enforcement.
"It's amazing when you can have that kind of impact on youth," said Dhaliwal.
Giving people, especially kids, the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the city's police force gives CPS credibility, says Dhaliwal.
"I come from a community where the pressures are to go into other career paths such as doctors, lawyers and things like that, so to see the positive difference that these officers are making.… I think it's such a good impact," says Dhaliwal.
"It also shows our community that we can be successful police officers."