The Rainy River District OPP has welcomed Inspector Shaun Crabbe as the new Detachment Commander, after the retirement of Nathan Schmidt. He took up his new post at the start of July.
Crabbe is not new to northwestern Ontario as he has been a detachment commander in Red Lake and Pickle Lake.
Born and raised in New Brunswick, Crabbe went to St. Thomas University where he got his bachelor of arts degree, majoring in psychology and criminology before joining the OPP. Prior to moving to Ontario, Crabbe said he volunteered with youth organizations, including the cadet movement with army cadets.
Crabbe said he has always been interested in serving and policing.
“I was initially torn between policing and the military,” Crabbe said. “I was in the military for six years before joining the OPP. I’d explored other options like the RCMP as well, but it’s always been something I was interested in.”
Crabbe started his career with the OPP in Owen Sound and subsequently worked in the Drug Enforcement Unit in western Ontario, working on large scale drug investigations including importation across international borders.
“I’ve also worked in northeastern Ontario, and Parry Sound and Kapuskasing in the James Bay detachment as well as detachment commanders of those locations,” Crabbe said. “I’ve been a detachment commander for the last 10 years in both northeastern and northwestern Ontario.”
Crabbe said the work and life balance that he and his family have experienced in northwestern Ontario made him interested in moving here.
“We like the outdoor lifestyle, boating, fishing, camping and hunting,” Crabbe said. “I knew workwise that we could really provide a good environment for our two kids, and have that good work-life balance in this part of the province.”
That being said, Crabbe noted that there are challenges that are unique to the area that includes an international border, a large marine component and the Trans Canada highway.
“We have a lot of tools that are disposable locally, whether it be traffic units or drug units to successfully address those concerns and those trends within our community,” Crabbe said.
Crabbe said he is also aware that the issue surrounding addictions and mental health is an ongoing pressure on police services throughout Ontario and it is highlighted in northwestern Ontario, where sometimes services are not as readily accessible, due to geographical issues.
“[Addiction] is an issue we’re seeing in Fort Frances,” Crabbe said. “But it’s also an issue we’re seeing in every community and the Rainy River District as well. We cannot arrest our way to a solution with someone with addictions.”
In order to address the issue of addiction, Crabbe said they have to leverage mental health and addiction services in the communities, to help those individuals and steer them clear of the judicial system, while also doing their part in targeting people who are trafficking and profiting by importing and selling those drugs to individuals who have addictions.
Crabbe added that he would like to expand the investigative capacity in terms of drug enforcement specifically and targeting drug trafficking and those profiting from the sale of drugs.
Another area Crabbe said he wants to expand on is the school system when students go back to in-person classes after the pandemic.
“Right now, the detachment does not have a formal program in place to have police presence in the schools,” Crabbe said. “And that’s where I think we could possibly have an impact from a number of different angles, whether it be cyber safety, cyber bullying, and drug use, where we can have a police presence in the schools to help educate students on those areas and help them make good, healthy decisions.”
Dealing with a lot of the negative aspects in society, including violence and victimization on a daily basis, Crabbe said he is always telling his officers that they have a very unique job.
“Sometimes you can feel like you’re just treading water or not making a difference,” Crabbe said. “What I tell the officers is that every day, we have opportunities to make a positive impact on people. There are positive impacts that the officers can have on supporting victims. We have to maintain that perspective and that’s very important.”