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Keeping the Peace: 160 Years of Policing the Imperial City by Phil Egan

March 16, 2020  By Staff Sgt. Chris Oram

Keeping the Peace: 160 Years of Policing the Imperial City
By Phil Egan with Cal Gardner; 2020, 289 pages
ISBN: 978- 0-9739339-7-0

Not too long ago, I took a walk in the downtown area of Sarnia, Ont. My first walk through the streets of Sarnia was as a rookie police officer walking the beat. Being new to the city at this time, I was somewhat unaware of the history that had unfolded over the centuries on these streets. That was 1983. Over time I learned a little about the past.

I knew a little about the story of the tragic murder of Const. Jack Lewis by the notorious Red Ryan during the 1936 robbery at the Cromwell and Christina Street liquor store. I knew the St. Clair River was a conduit for liquor smuggling during the days of American prohibition. I knew public hangings had occurred downtown. The list goes on. I am sorry to say I did not know the entirety of any of these stories. Phil Egan’s epic work, Keeping the Peace: 160 Years of Policing the Imperial City, has begun to change that for me.

As with all well-researched and well-written books, the reader receives far more than what the title implies. No piece of history ever existed in a vacuum. There are always origins and causes, sometimes a world away causing sway on local outcomes. This book shows how seemingly recent issues such as opiate addiction, in reality, have a history spanning nations and centuries.

As I said, I knew the general story of Const. Jack Lewis. However, Egan lays out for the reader the foundational acts that led to this tragedy. These include an overly gullible Toronto media of the day and Prime Minister R.B. Bennett years before and many miles away. Knowing a historical chain of events that started at the other end of the province led to that tragic day in 1936 gives one a renewed perspective when walking by Cromwell and Christina.

I encourage one and all to read this book, even if policing does not interest you. This historical research of which this book is the result gives a great overview of national, provincial and local history. It is a very colourful history. As Canadians, we don’t seem to celebrate or acknowledge our history enough. This book is a good start to changing that for many.

– Staff Sgt. Chris Oram (ret.), Sarnia Police Service

Order your copy here.

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