The Ontario Provincial Police - More than a Century of Policing
On October 13, 1909, a provincial Order-in-Council decreed the establishment of the Ontario Provincial Police Force - a permanent force of salaried police constables. From its earliest days to today, the strength of the OPP has been its people.
The OPP's roots can be traced back to the 19th century when John Wilson Murray, the province's first full-time paid criminal detective, began his 31-year career in 1875. A small staff of government detectives worked for the Attorney General's office until the formation of the OPP when many of these 'provincial constables' subsequently joined the now formalized Ontario Provincial Police.
OPP Headquarters was established at Queen's Park in Toronto with divisional offices in Niagara Falls and Cobalt. Superintendent Joseph E. Rogers, first head of the OPP, commanded six inspectors and 38 constables. During these early years, many worked in single officer detachments without benefit of telephone or radio communications or even motor vehicles. In the north, rail was the most common form of transportation.
The successive appointments in the 1920s of two military men to the position of commissioner defined the character of the new and expanding organization with Standing Orders, badge numbers and military style uniforms and insignia.
In 1930, personnel from the Department of Public Highways joined the OPP Motorcycle Patrol. By 1941, Ontario's increasingly busy highways dictated the introduction of marked patrol cars, creating the indelible link between black and white cruiser, and patrol officer.
During World War II, the government utilized volunteers to assist in provincial security duties, the forebears of today's Auxiliary Program (1960). In 1947, the OPP's launch of the largest most modern police radio system in Canada heralded a new era in communications. By 1956, 75 percent of members were concentrated on enforcing the Highway Traffic Act, reflecting a significant increase in the volume of vehicles on the road. Shortly thereafter, the OPP employed SCUBA equipment for the first time and began utilizing snow vehicles in the north.
A major reorganization of the OPP, initiated by Commissioner Eric Silk, characterized the 1960s. What followed was a period of rapid growth through modernization, diversity and training. In 1965, the OPP was the first Canadian police service to commence traffic law enforcement by air.
In 1974, the OPP hired the first women for uniform duty. In 1977, the OPP was instrumental in the development of the first laser used in the world for forensic identification. The 1980s saw increased efficiency through improvements in telecommunications and computer technology; uniforms designed for greater comfort and practicality and the first protective vests became available.
Relocated from Toronto, the 1995 opening of General Headquarters in Orillia marked the first time all GHQ staff were located under one roof, centralizing operations. In 1997, the Golden Helmets Precision Motorcycle Team, originally established in the 1960s, began riding again; the moratorium on contracting for police services was lifted and significant uniform changes brought in wide brim hats and dark blue uniform shirts.
In 1998, Commissioner Gwen Boniface became the 12th leader of the OPP and the first woman to hold that rank. The 1999 purchase of a Pilatus PC 12/45 plane expanded Aviation Services by allowing the OPP to perform missions anywhere in Ontario and across North America. The Incident Support Centre played a critical role in the OPP's preparations for the dawn of the new millennium (Y2K), which arrived without incident.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York had a significant impact on the OPP and the proactive and reactive response to emergency situations. The creation of the Provincial Emergency Response Team (PERT) in 2001, the Provincial Anti-Terrorism Section (P.A.T.S) in 2002 and the OPP Security Service at Queen's Park Toronto (2003) positioned the OPP as a leader in emergency management.
The Highway Safety Division was introduced in 2005, with a focus on reducing motor vehicle collision injuries and fatalities. LED light bars were installed on cruisers in 2006 to increase visibility and enhance officer safety.
Commissioner Julian Fantino was sworn in as the OPP's 13th leader in 2006. In light of the organization's strong traditions, he reintroduced black and white cruisers in 2007 and initiated the return of the peak cap in 2008.
The OPP fulfills its mandate as one of North America's largest deployed police services with more than 6,100 uniformed officers, 2,700 civilian employees and 850 Auxiliary officers (2010). "Policing Excellence through Our People, Our Work, and Our Relationships" is the mission of the OPP which guides each member towards the achievement of the OPP's overall vision for Safe Communities, A Secure Ontario.
2009 marked the OPP's 100th anniversary, a milestone achievement of service to the people of Ontario as well as a celebration of its glorious past during regional and community events while shedding some light on its future.
In March 2014, Deputy Commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes was appointed by the Government of Ontario to succeed Commissioner Lewis and continue a commitment to excellence in policing throughout the next century.