In this year of celebrating a century of protecting and serving the people of Ontario, it is important to remember that Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) members stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. Their presence today comes from the hard-earned wisdom of the many who have gone before.
The skill set of the modern OPP officer is honed from the experiences of the past and the need for innovative solutions to the problems of today. In acknowledging and invoking this unique style of policing, the OPP has gained the trust and confidence of the public it serves.
It has been three years since I took on the challenge of leading another of Ontario’s major police services. Although my law enforcement career goes back almost 40 years, I have found the position of OPP Commissioner to be my most challenging job yet.
I speak not of managing over 8,800 people or the important administrative decisions that must be made every day at a modern police service – that is simply the everyday function of any police leader and requires skills already mastered, albeit on a larger scale. The challenge I speak of is in delivering policing services to a province made up of communities that are as diverse as the huge geography they inhabit.
The need to have in place effective means of internal communication to link our 165 detachments, five regional headquarters, one divisional headquarters and a general headquarters together and to ensure we are all aligned towards the same goals is critical. Through enhancements to our Provincial Communications Centres, implementation of a results driven policing framework and a renewed commitment to effective business planning, we have been able to take great strides forward.
One of the things that make the OPP unique is our mandate to provide policing in isolated northern communities and to provide direct or supportive police services to many First Nations communities. Before coming to the OPP, I spent most of my career with large urban, southern police services. A northern policing experience has been an important and formative experience for many OPP officers, adding to the character of the entire organization.
Upon my arrival at the OPP, I was also immediately struck by the many needless deaths and injuries on the roads, waterways and trails policed by the OPP. We undertook to develop and implement a consistent and unified strategy to save lives. The award winning “Provincial Traffic Safety Program” was the result and targets the “Big 3” – impaired driving, lack of occupant restraint and aggressive driving. The core components that include high police visibility, an intelligence-led approach and a retrn to proven safety principles have become entrenched throughout the province in every officer’s role.
Speaking as a person “not cut from the OPP cloth,” so to speak, I can only stand in awe of the excellent work our officers do each day. The more than 8,800 uniform and civilian members of our service, which is recognized as one of the largest in North America, deliver contract policing services to more than 300 municipalities and patrol 922,752 square kilometres of land and 110,398 square kilometers of waterways with cars and trucks, snowmobiles, boats, aircraft, motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles and even hrses.
The capabilities the OPP can bring to bear are truly phenomenal. From award-winning tactical squads to state-of-the-art forensic facilities and specialized investigative services that are deployed strategically, we are able to support municipal police services throughout the province. However, it is through collaborating and partnering with municipal police services that we will reap the greatest rewards to fight the abuse and sexual exploitation of children, organized crime, the proliferation of guns, gags and drugs in our communities among a few.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet, as Helen Keller observed. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.
I have worked with many police services over the last 40 years. The character of the Ontario Provincial Police is impressive. Both the organization and its many members have truly grown and developed through their service over these past 100 years.