A Brief History
The evolution of the Ontario Provincial Police begins with the First Parliament of Upper Canada on September 17th, 1792, at Niagara-on-the-Lake when provision was made for the formation of a 'police system'. From these humble beginnings, the OPP's growth has paralleled the development of our province.
Initially, policing jurisdictions were limited to districts, townships, and parishes. In 1877, ten years following Confederation, the 'Constables Act' extended jurisdiction giving designated police members authorization to act throughout the province. The first salaried 'Provincial Constable' appointed to act as 'Detective for the Government of Ontario' was John Wilson Murray.
With the discovery of gold and silver in Northern Ontario, lawlessness increased. Consequently, on October 13th, 1909, an Order-In-Council decreed the establishment of a permanent organization of salaried constables designated as 'The Ontario Provincial Police'. It consisted of 45 men under the direction of Superintendent Joseph E. Rogers. The starting salary for constables was $400.00 per annum. Today the province is divided into 6 OPP regions (Central, Highway Safety Division, East, North-East, North-West and West) responsible for providing policing services over 942,405 sq. km of land and 94,610 sq. km of water to a population of 2.3 million people or 3.6 million in the summer months. Currently approximately 6,200 uniform and 2,800 civilian personnel take on the challenges of providing policing services to the citizens of Ontario. A shift from rural policing and traffic enforcement to also include municipal contract policing in communities across the province now represents 40% of our policing activities. With today's diversity it is imperative that the OPP represent the clients it serves.
In 1921, restructuring was undertaken. The title of the commanding officer was changed and Major General Harry M. Elliot (later becoming Cawthra-Elliot) was appointed as the first commissioner on May 1, 1921. Since then, we have gone through 14 leadership changes. J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes, our current Commissioner, took office on March 29, 2014. Each Commissioner has made a unique impact on O.P.P. development.
- OPP motorcycles were introduced in 1930 and the first patrol car in 1944. Today the fleet consists of 2,290 vehicles, 114 marine vessels, 286 snow and all-terrain vehicles, 2 helicopters and aircraft.
- World War II gave rise to the 'Veterans Guard', a body of volunteers (primarily World War I veterans), who under the supervision of regular police members, protected vulnerable hydro-electric plants and the Welland ship canal. This was the forerunner of today's OPP Auxiliary, which boasts 830 volunteers and is the largest police auxiliary unit in Canada.
- Women joined the uniform ranks in 1974 as constables and their numbers now exceed the national average for women in policing across the country.
- In 1985, the OPP uniform was made more distinctive with the introduction of a blue trouser stripe to match a blue peak cap band.
- In 1995, General Headquarters moved into its new facility in Orillia and for the first time in the history of the organization, all Bureaus were in one building.
- Today's emphasis is on our values: professionalism, accountability; relationships; excellence and leadership.
For more information on the history of the OPP, visit the OPP Museum website