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CHALLENGING THE FUTURE


December 11, 2013
By Kathleen Griffin

1151 words – MR

CHALLENGING THE FUTURE

by Kathleen Griffin

When York Regional Police (YRP) Deputy Chief Bruce Herridge began his policing career more than 40 years ago, he had no idea how varied his assignments – and challenges – would be.

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Herridge joined in 1982 following several years in Toronto. He worked a few months in uniform patrol at both #3 and #1 District, but it wasn’t long before he found his niche.

It was a time of change. The world had started to move from typewriters to computers; from hard copies to electronic; from inter-office memos to email messaging. YRP was interested in researching new computer-aided dispatch and records management systems, as well as mobile work stations in the cruisers. They were all new, untried technologies.

“I was asked did I know anything about computers and when I said yes, I found myself in planning and research inside a year as part of the feasibility and implementation team,” he recalled. “We were the first service in Ontario to receive police services board approval to move forward on all three technologies. The cost was more than $2 million at the time, which was significant.”

Herridge championed the innovative and forward-thinking move and YRP became a leader in this area as a result, a reputation it continues to enjoy today. Many services were resistant to this change, but he knew it was the way of the future.

“It was important for us to be capable of using every tool at our disposal in order to meet the growing expectations of our community and the interest of the public in our business, which became far greater than ever before,” he said. “Advances in technology sped up the appetite for information, from the media and from the community, and that increased the pace of policing.”

A life-long learner, Herridge had the knowledge and skills to move those initiatives forward. He holds a master’s degree in business administration, a bachelor of arts honours degree in criminology, a certificate in law enforcement administration from the University of Toronto and successfully completed the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Program. His education, and other assignments in internal audits, information services and operations, developed his now-extensive experience in implementing automated systems, emergency communications and collaborative public safety response logistics.

Just three months ago, Herridge received the F. Darren Smith Award of Excellence in recognition of his leadership and vision for a technology-enhanced future in police training.

Technology has led to policing growing as a profession, Herridge said. Policing itself is more sophisticated and officers more accessible.

“Forty years ago we believed our clientele were criminals. Now of course we know the criminal element makes up only a small portion of our clientele and that it is far more important to interact with and engage with the 95 per cent of our community that is not. It has become one of our core functions.”

Herridge has taken that value to heart, volunteering in a variety of areas during his career to give back to the community he serves.

He is the immediate past chairman of the Southlake Regional Health Centre Board of Directors, past chair of the Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Management Alumni Association and the past vice-chairman of the York Region Children’s Aid Society.

He also supports Special Olympics, Big Brothers Big Sisters of York Region and was the co-chair of the Region of York 2009 and 2010 United Way campaigns.

As working relationships between the community and police continue to improve, so does community interest in policing. Increased media scrutiny and the popularization of television shows focused on policing – the ones where crimes are solved in an hour – have brought policing under the spotlight more than ever before.

The challenges of policing are continuing to grow along with the population and in the current economic climate, where the cost of policing is being questioned at all levels of government, the old reasoning won’t wash.

“The argument has always been more police officers but you could argue nowhere is there enough officers. That can’t be the answer. We can’t afford for that to be the answer.”

Focusing on specific enforcement, expanding complementary business models to address things like nuisance and noise calls, creating more robust bylaws to be enforced by municipal bylaw officers and the civilianization of some police positions, such as forensic identification technicians, are themes Herridge expects to see as police services move forward.

As Deputy Chief of Operations, Herridge also has had a long-time commitment to advancing road safety in York Region. He credits his early years as a traffic unit officer with the then-Metro Toronto Police for that.

“It’s the ideal place to learn frontline policing – investigation, note-taking, court preparation and testimony,” he said. “Doing that job made me appreciate the impact of road safety, that’s it’s not just enforcement, it’s about altered lives for victims and their families, it’s about the health care and insurance costs, all tolls far greater than a dented fender.”

Herridge took that attitude and knowledge and applied it at YRP, right up until his last months in the job. Traffic strategies over the years have reflected the shift to increased education and awareness and he takes special pride in the YRP Safe Arrival program.

The technical monitoring of police patrol vehicle speeds and the requirement to justify excessive speeds has reduced high speeds and the potential for high-risk collisions, he believes.

“We lose more officers in North America in vehicle-related incidents that we do having them stabbed or shot. It has always been important to us that our people go home at the end of shift.”

Herridge was recently named the new director of the Ontario Police College, a job he’ll start January 2, 2014. He’s excited to continue his long-standing commitment to learning, training and technology, but leaving YRP won’t be easy.

“There is always something new happening, this is not an assembly-line job,” he said. “I loved working with people who had common interests, solving problems while delivering excellent service. I enjoyed helping the community and our local politicians understand policing is an important element in a safe community and safe communities attract business and people looking for a place to raise their families. I liked knowing we did make a difference and are still making a difference. I will miss it.”

He credits his fellow officers, family and the leaders who came before him for his success and he’ll be sad to leave the many officers and civilian members he’s worked with over the years.

“I’ve connected with many people over my 40 years and I will miss them. I enjoyed discussing people’s aspirations and expectations. No one does it alone and building successful teams in an ever-changing environment has been very satisfying. Many of my relationships built here at YRP are life-long and will continue long after I have left.”


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