Damian Sycz

PhD candidate | Sociology

student headshotDamian Sycz, a PhD candidate in Sociology is working with one of the largest police services in Canada as part of his dissertation research, to explore why individuals decide to become police auxiliary constables, and the ways in which police services can improve their recruitment tactics to target individuals with diverse backgrounds. Auxiliary constables are volunteer police officers who act to augment the police service they’re volunteering by participating in ride alongs, and helping out at parades and other events. Another goal of his research is to improve current conditions for auxiliary police constables. This way, he says that he can not only further research in the area but, “give back to the organization as well.”

Aside from his academic pursuits, Damian seeks out opportunities to volunteer in the community where he can also support local law enforcement. He is a founding member of the Waterloo Crime Awareness team, a group that brings together students from Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo with the Waterloo Regional Police Service to discuss various issues and crime trends in the university and college districts. For example, the team launched a door knocking program before the winter holidays, to encourage students to secure their belongings before leaving to spend the holidays with their families. “It’s a good way for police services and the community to work together,” says Damian. “We tell [the police] about the issues students face, and they tell us about the issues they’re seeing, and then we work together to come up with ideas and initiatives to address these problems.”

police car

Damian participates in ride alongs with law enforcement as part of his research for his dissertation.

Another police services initiative that Damian has devoted his time to is the Cops and Youth Community Ownership program in Waterloo and Guelph. This 12-week program brings together students from local high schools and the police to address issues students have within their high school community. Damian is a facilitator for the program, supporting the participants as they work on developing presentations on topics such as bullying, substance abuse and impaired driving. Damian reflects, “This program really brings everyone together. When students interact with police in this capacity, it really humanizes the badge and removes barriers between the public and the police.”

 

Last spring, Damian taught a new course, Police Systems and Practices, in his home department. He attributes his opportunities to ride along with police officers as instrumental in giving him an in-depth knowledge of policing experiences. “It’s very easy for someone who has never been in a police cruiser to criticize the police, but once you’ve spent a bunch of time with the police and in police vehicles, you come to understand some of the challenges that police officers experience.”

Beyond his commitment to policing research, Damian is highly involved in the Sociology and Legal Studies department. As the Graduate Student Representative for Sociology, his goal is to foster an environment of inclusivity and mentorship where everyone feels comfortable approaching one another and sharing ideas.

When Damian isn’t in his office answering questions from his peers or his students, he is actively connecting with prospective students at University-run events including Grad Visit Day where students that have received an offer come to the university to see the campus, and meet with department graduate students and faculty members. The importance of these events can’t be understated, he says: “Throwing these events makes graduate school appear less intimidating, and it helps everyone make connections early on.” Damian’s departmental and community contributions revolve around positive, open discussion, in addition to cultivating a community rooted in belonging and togetherness.