ITHACA, N.Y. — The Ithaca Police Department’s youngest officer, 9-year-old Colin Hayward Toland, has been honored as officer of the month.

Surrounded by family, friends and officers from the Ithaca Police Department, New York State Police, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, Cornell University Police Department, FBI and others, Officer Colin received the Frank G. Hammer Officer of the Month Award from the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga.

The award was presented Monday at a Kiwanis luncheon at Moon Moon Buffet in Ithaca.

Since being sworn in to the Ithaca Police Department in September, Officer Colin has been busy, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber said. Colin has attended a shift briefing, patrolled the Ithaca Commons, visited classes at Northeast Elementary School (where he is in fourth grade), attended SWAT training and many other police events and trainings.

“Colin is a shining example of what is really important, and I know that he has brought great joy to my police department,” Barber said.

District Attorney-elect Matthew Van Houten said “I’ve been in awe of everything he’s done and all the support and inspiration that he’s provided this community.”

From left, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber with Officer Colin Hayward Toland.
From left, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber with Officer Colin Hayward Toland.

At the age of 2, Colin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called anaplastic ependymoma. He underwent chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation to treat the tumor. In January 2015, Colin’s cancer returned and he has had more surgeries to remove tumors in his brain, and has gone through numerous treatments. Most recently, Colin had surgery followed by radiation of the brain and spine at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, Barber said.

“Colin has overcome so much over the years,” Barber said. “He is a bright and funny boy who loves being with his family and playing video games, especially Minecraft, which I’m sure he’ll tell you a lot about. Though Colin has been through so much, perhaps in part because of it, he has always wanted to help people and contribute to his community.”

To remind the community about being safe on Halloween, Officer Colin and his mother, Tamiko Toland, created a safety video that had 12,000 views and was shared 174 times.

Last week, Officer Colin was recognized as officer of the month during the first intermission of the Cornell-Princeton men’s hockey game at Lynah Rink.

According to a Cornell Chronicle article, during the intermission, Colin said when he came back from the hospital, he really wanted to help people. “So I thought it would be a great idea to become a police officer,” he said.

Related: 9-year-old boy officially joins ranks with Ithaca police

Colin’s father, Ian Hayward, said his family has been greatly moved by the entire experience. Hayward recalled something his grandmother said: “Make everything better in your life.” He said his family has had an amazing experience at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and said Colin has been inspired by countless people he has encountered, like doctors and other health professionals. In turn, Colin has given back and has encouraged everyone he meets to be a better person, Hayward said.

“One of the things I think that Colin falls back on constantly is we should always constantly help one another, and that’s the one driving force, no matter where he is and what the situation is, he always responds with some sort of positivity — sometimes histrionics, sometimes an interesting joke and an interesting way of looking at it — but in that whole process he’s found a way to carve out an incredible life. Not just a good life, an incredible life, where he’s touched everybody around him,” Hayward said.

Despite his health challenges, Officer Colin still finds time to serve the community, Barber said.

“I have heard him tell others numerous times that he likes helping people and he often encourages others to always go after your dreams. Officer Colin is an inspiration to everyone he meets, most notably the members of the Ithaca Police Department,” Barber said.

Follow Officer Colin’s adventures on his Facebook page, Officer Colin: The Youngest Member of the Ithaca Police Department.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.