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Three Hamilton Police Association Members Recognized for the 2023 Police Services Hero of the Year Awards

Hosted by President Jaimi Bannon and the Hamilton Police Association, PAO President Mark Baxter was in Hamilton on Friday, October 27 to recognize three outstanding members: Special Constable Supervisor Hannah Demik, Constable Robert Lawther and Constable James Durka.

Last Spring, the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) was thrilled to announce the winners of their 8th annual Police Services Hero of the Year Awards. The awards highlight the best recipients of public submission nominations to recognize the work of outstanding police personnel who have gone beyond their call of duty to protect and serve their communities.

The awards presentation was a heartwarming event that celebrated our members who have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact on their community. Surrounded by their family, friends, and colleagues, the award winner and finalists were honoured for their remarkable contributions and selfless acts of kindness.

Here is a closer look at the stories of the award winner and the outstanding finalists who were recognized at this prestigious event.

Special Constable Supervisor Hannah Demik – (Finalist) 2023 Civilian On-Duty Difference Maker Award (A civilian police service employee who has gone above and beyond the expectations of the job while on-duty)

She became the youngest-ever promoted to supervisor of the Hamilton police special constables at age 32. She oversaw a team of three dozen officers responsible for prisoner escorts to the John Sopinka Courthouse, earning her colleagues’ respect for her exceptional leadership and ability to unite people. It has been only one year since Hannah tragically died from heart failure last year. This award honours her memory and highlights Hannah’s outstanding character, leadership, and unwavering commitment to law enforcement, significantly impacting the Hamilton Police Service.

The award was given to her parents, Pete and Selina Demik, who are immensely proud of their daughter’s accomplishments. Hannah’s close friends, Rebecca Morrison and Sandra Guiliani, were present to shed more light on her inspiring journey.

In a heartwarming tribute to Hannah, her friends initiated a fundraiser for the U15 Hamilton Hawks girls’ hockey team. Hannah, a passionate hockey player, had been associated with various leagues, including the Hamilton Hawks, Hamilton Women’s Hockey League, and the Hamilton Police Service Hockey League. The generosity of the community shone brightly, as the donation was matched by the Hamilton Police Association.

Constable Robert Lawther – (Finalist) 2023 Uniform On-Duty Difference Maker Award (An officer who has gone above and beyond the expectations of the job while on-duty)

He has provided unwavering support and care to a fellow first responder facing post-traumatic stress disorder. He was hired in 2013 and is currently assigned to Division One Patrol on C Squad. Robert responded to multiple 911 calls for their safety in their most challenging moments, showing genuine concern and compassion.

This individual was his nominator Max Power, a Primary Care Paramedic with the Hamilton Paramedic Service. He shared a deeply personal story during the ceremony. He credits Robert with saving his life at a time when he had reached a point of despair and doubted his ability to continue serving as a first responder.

Max’s story is a powerful testament and underscores the importance of support and camaraderie within the first responder community. It reminds us all that heroes come in many forms, often quietly working behind the scenes to make a difference in the lives of others.

James Durka – (Winner) 2023 Community Role Model Award – (A police officer or civilian police service employee who, in their free time, has made a notable difference in or contribution to their community over a prolonged period of time)

He has been a police officer with the Hamilton Police Service for 20 years. He is a role model in this community both on and off duty. Six years ago, James’ wife Jessica was diagnosed with cancer. He cared for her all while performing his duty as a detective for the Hamilton Police Service.

When Jessica’s cancer was in remission, the couple decided to pay it forward by growing pumpkins at her family farm in Waterford and selling them at a roadside market they titled the Juravinski Cancer Centre Pumpkin Patch. For the last five years, James has spent countless hours on this project and recruits fellow police officers on their days off to assist with the annual pumpkin picking. Together James and Jessica have raised $245,000 for the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton.

James was recognized earlier in the spring at the annual gala held in Aurora, hosted by the York Regional Police Association. Surrounded by friends and colleagues, James was celebrated for his exceptional contributions to the Hamilton community.

Parliamentary Assistant to the Solicitor General, Christine Hogarth, Minister Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MPP Hamilton East and Stoney Creek), MPP Donna Skelly (Flamborough-Glanbrook), Chair Pat Mandy, Hamilton Police Service Board and Chief Frank Bergen, Hamilton Police Service also attended the ceremony, showing their support and appreciation for our community’s heroes.

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