Even the Ithaca Police K-9 dog Rex is currently sporting a pink badge on his collar.
This year marks the third consecutive year that the Ithaca Police Department officers are wearing pink badges in support of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The IPD started the pink badge initiative in 2017 after 10-year-old Colin Toland became the department’s youngest police officer the previous year, Senior Deputy Chief of IPD Vincent Monticello told The Sun in a phone call.
Colin was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two and went into relapse in 2015. Despite fighting cancer for many years, he was motivated to help others and make a difference. When he met John Barber, the retired Chief of the IPD who spent 30 years in law enforcement, at a community barbecue, Colin expressed his desire of wanting to become a police officer. His dream was fulfilled when he was officially sworn in on Sept. 12, 2016.
In an interview with the Ithaca Journal, IPD spokesman Jamie Williamson said that “Colin’s strength and perseverance that showed in his journey is the epitome of the human spirit,” and that “he had all the qualities that we look for in a police officer.” Colin passed away in March 2018.
According to Monticello, Colin and many others’ courage and perseverance in the face of cancer inspired the IPD to take on this initiative — October 2017 marked the first year that IPD officers started wearing pink badges.
To wear one, an officer has to contribute fifty dollars into the department’s charity pool, which is then is then used to help a cancer-related cause or an individual fighting the disease.
Monticello said around 22 officers participated in last year’s initiative, together raising over a thousand dollars. The donations went to the spouse of a law enforcement officer, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
He hopes this year’s donations will surpass that of the previous year, though the final recipient has not yet been determined.
One in every eight American women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Fortunately, according to the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, with the increase in accessibility to quality healthcare, the breast cancer mortality rate has been steadily declining in the U.S.
“[Cancer] touches somebody’s life, whether it’s a relative, a family member or a close friend,” Monticello said.
“I have had relatives pass away from cancer and hopefully someday we will make progress when it comes to a cure for cancer,” he continued. “We have come a long way over the years. Raising awareness is very important.”
Monticello also invites the public to go up and speak with IPD officers, whether they have questions about cancer or anything else.
“We are humans, we are approachable, we are there to serve them, he said. “This is just one little part of our policing efforts to engage the public in conversation.”