On Mark Tasaka’s first day as a constable with the Vancouver Police Department, he was driving the van that takes offenders into custody.
Also in the van was Det. Terry Murphy who, Tasaka says, gave him “the single most important” piece of advice that someone starting out on the job should know.
“Terry said, ‘Talk to people. Just talk to them. Treat them with dignity and respect.’”
Tasaka took that advice to heart. Sixteen years later, Murphy was at the Roundhouse Community Centre on February 9 as Tasaka took to the stage as the VPD’s 2016 Police Officer of the Year.
“Mark is just the most genuine, dedicated, committed, selfless person,” Murphy said after the annual awards ceremony, adding that “it’s Mark’s humility and hard work” that make Tasaka so deserving of the honour.
“He cares about the city,” added Const. Dave Marchand, the 2013 officer of the year. “He’s always trying to help people.”
Another officer-of-the-year alumnus, Const. Tyrone Sideroff (2010), echoed the word “genuine” to describe Tasaka’s chief characteristic. “He’s genuine with victims, with suspects, with his fellow offers. And because of that, he stops crime trends and has a huge effect on the victims.”
Sideroff remembered the time when Tasaka was investigating a break-in at a house. A child who lived there was traumatized by the thought of a stranger coming into his home so Tasaka returned, with a specially trained police dog, to help reassure the young boy that he had nothing to fear.
“It’s the little things like this that he does,” Sideroff said of why he too applauds the selection committee’s choice.
For his part, Tasaka says that Murphy, Marchand and Sideroff have been his mentors from day one. “They showed me how to be a police officer.”
Being a police officer was one of Tasaka’s dreams as a child growing up in Richmond but life got in the way. In his late thirties, he was a commercial fisherman with a young family and didn’t want to be away for such long stretches of time. It was time to do what he’d always wanted — become a police officer. He graduated when he was 40 and his motivation to serve the community has never wavered..
“Every day you’re making an impact,” he told the Courier of why he loves the work. “Whether you’re a detective behind a desk or out on patrol, working day and night and interacting with people, you’re trying to help not only the victims but also people who are marginalized. You’re helping them find their way.”
It can be difficult when you repeatedly see the unpleasant and sometimes horrific aspects of life in Vancouver. But what keeps him positive, he said, are the citizens — like the ones being honoured at the awards ceremony — who band together and help one another.
“These are the unsung heroes who are making a difference,” he says of the civilian award winners. “It’s these people who keep us going. On a day like today, we see the 98 per cent of people who are willing to help their fellow citizens each and every day.”
Asked what advice he would give to a rookie officer, Tasaka paused then said, “Learn from your colleagues; experience is huge in this profession. Fall back on your training. And listen. Listen to the people, listen to your victims and listen to the people you may have to arrest.”
Staff Sgt. Kevin Fincham read the following acknowledgement of why Const. Mark Tasaka was chosen as the 2016 officer of the year for the Vancouver Police Department.
As a natural leader Const. Tasaka's hard work and dedication have earned him the respect of his co-workers. He is a coach and mentor and is considered one of the top field trainers for new recruits. Mark is known as a skilled investigator and crime-fighter who quickly recognizes criminals, their associates and their trends. He has a reputation for piecing together evidence and proactively launching seuccessful investigations.
Perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to build bridges. Mark collaborates with other officers, specialty sections and outside agencies. He reaches out to junior members and shares his knowledge and experience. He connects with victims and witnesses in the crimes he investigates. His compassion and consideration for everyone he encounters is commendable.
After almost 16 years of working on patrol, in surveillance and as a detective, Mark will tell you his favourite part of the job is interacting with people in the community. Const. Mark Tasaka is a dedicated and passionate police officer. His natural policing instincts and generosity with his support, knowledge and experience exemplify excellence within the VPD.
Here is a list of the Vancouver Police Board awards of merit and Chief Constable's Valour, Commendation and Citation Awards.