30 years ago today, July 18th, 1983 I started as a Constable with the Stratford Police Force (now Service), I really had no idea about what I was getting into, but boy was I lucky to find this career.
Three month earlier the construction company I was working for (Pounder Brothers) had finished renovating the Stratford Police building. Before I was done the Chief Norman E. MacDonald and Deputy Chief Douglas “Joe” Hartung (retired Chief) asked to speak with me…they told me that they had noticed me and wondered if I had ever considered becoming a police officer…I hadn’t, they were going to be hiring and thought I should consider applying. I was 21 already a Licensed Carpenter, married with a daughter and another daughter on the way. Up until that point my plan was to continue to gain more experience and then start out on my own someday and build houses.
I’ll skip some obvious “stuff”…I was hired.
My luck continued, my training officer Constable Graham Bunting (retired D/Sergeant) was a skilled police officer and willing to take his new “apprentice” under his wing. He was outstanding and I was (and am) appreciative. I was assigned to great platoon and my Sergeant was Don Hook (retired Deputy Chief), he was a no-nonsense kind of guy but fair and couldn’t be rattled regardless of the chaos that sometimes would occur…sometimes created by my youthful exuberance.
Our cruisers where yellow and had no air-conditioning, beige vinyl seats and no AM/FM radios, but had all the necessary policing equipment. We worked 8 hour shifts, days 8-4, afternoons 4-12 and midnights 12-8. We wore light blue shirts, pants with red stripes and black leather ankle shoes (year round). Foot patrol was assigned sometimes for the entire shift, and when all the patrol zones had 2 officers in each cruiser, you were left to your own devices for warmth/cooling and shelter. We also had a bank corner assignment Mon-Fri year round, where the Sergeant was required to ensure a Constable stood there, directed traffic and helped pedestrians 10 am – 6 pm…and you didn’t leave until you were relieved…
My use of force options as they became known consisted of a plastic baton, a sap, handcuffs and a Smith and Wesson 38 caliber revolver, with a separate pouch with 6 bullets for reloading. The revolver had a leather holster with a flap over top. My training officer kept the first chamber of his revolver empty in case it was taken away from him, giving him the advantage of knowing the first shot would not go off. Body Armour was just being introduced, it was worn under my shirt and very uncomfortable, but I wore it.
In September I was off to the Ontario Police College and was filled with excitement, yet very anxious at the same time. Once I arrived in my pod many of my fellow recruits where feverously polishing their boots, leather belts, cross straps, and even the peak of their forage caps…my anxiety peaked.
The next morning after breakfast we assembled in the auditorium and where promptly yelled at by the Commanding Officer for taking off our hats without being told to do so…my indoctrination into the paramilitary culture had begun in earnest. Thankfully my main Instructor a seconded officer from Durham Region S/SGT Shaw calmed us down while in class and became our ally for navigating successfully though our training over the next 9 weeks (we did and A part of 9 weeks and then a B part 6 weeks several months later). The college was demanding mentally and physically and I loved it.
I’ll skip the next 29 years but happy to say that I have loved virtually every minute of it, the joy of making a difference, helping people in a crisis, improving the safety in my community and working with a team of committed professionals who are likewise invested has allowed me to enjoy coming to “work” every day….I am very thankful.