OPP auxiliary members saluted for their service

The local Police Services Board recognized the valuable contributions of the district’s volunteer police force—the OPP Auxiliary—this morning.
During a breakfast meeting at La Place Rendez-Vous, PSB chairman John McTaggart thanked the OPP Auxiliary members for their service to district communities and presented them with certificates of appreciation.
Among the recipients were Murray Alexander, Aimee Collins, James O’Sullivan, Chris Spence, and Laurie Walsh.
The district’s two other OPP Auxiliary members—Curtis Loerzel and Robert Dokuchie—could not be present at this morning’s ceremony due to work commitments.
Fort Frances OPP S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis said the auxiliary members are seen as “valuable” by the local detachment and its officers. He noted there’s a true bonding that occurs between the volunteers and the full-fledged officers when they work together.
“I want to thank them personally for their efforts,” he remarked. “They’re a special group of people.”
The meeting also was attended by PSB members Bill Martin, Patti-Jo Reid, Loreen Holt, and Couns. Neil Kabel and Rick Wiedenhoeft, who had a number of questions for the auxiliary members, including how why they became members in the first place.
“I loved volunteering anyway,” said Walsh, a long-time member of the local Kiwanis Club and regular volunteer for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
“It’s just another way to be involved in the community,” he added. “It sounded more intriguing than selling tickets at Safeway.”
Walsh stressed being an auxiliary member held “more fun, more excitement” than many other volunteering jobs.
“You get on patrol with a regular member and you see things you didn’t know happened here at night,” he remarked.
Spence, who works at the Fort Frances Jail, said he’d worked with young offenders for years, wanted to help out in the community, and had been considering a career in policing when he joined the auxiliary three-and-a-half years ago.
After experiencing what’s it’s like to be on the force, he’s right now writing tests to become a full-fledged OPP officer.
S/Sgt. Dennis noted being an auxiliary member is a “highly recommended” way to start a career as an OPP officer.
Collins said she first did a co-op placement with the OPP while in high school and became interested in the force. She likes the volunteering aspect of it, with a view to possibly become an officer down the road.
She noted it’s a good way to see both the positive and negative sides of doing the job, and judge for oneself whether it’s a life-long career choice.
O’Sullivan, a paramedic by trade, noted he wanted to be an OPP officer many years ago but couldn’t pursue it because he didn’t meet the vision requirements.
But when he found out about the OPP Auxiliary, he got involved and added the job to a long list of other volunteer work, including being a firefighter and councillor in Emo.
“It’s really interesting, and the training was great,” he said. “Three squares and an exercise program.”
Alexander, who works at the Fort Frances Jail, joined four years ago after attending a public information session on the OPP Auxiliary.
“People asked, ‘What’s an old fellow like you doing on a job like this?’ I wanted to see if I could run with the young pups,” he chuckled. “And here I am.”
OPP Auxiliary members are trained volunteers who assist OPP officers, whether it’s on patrol, responding to an incident, or doing paperwork back at the detachment.
The purpose of the OPP Auxiliary program is to provide fully-trained volunteer auxiliary members to perform police duties in special circumstances, including emergencies, when there are not sufficient OPP police officers.
But being a member also allows citizens the opportunity to experience firsthand both the excitement and challenges of police duty.
Members of the auxiliary have no police authority and must rely on the same arrest provisions afforded regular citizens.
But the Police Services Act does provide for instances when the auxiliary member may have the authority of a police officer. This can occur in an emergency situation where the OPP requires additional strength to cope with a special occasion or event, noted S/Sgt. Dennis.
There are a total of 30 auxiliary members in the Kenora and Rainy River districts, and a total of 900 in the province.
The OPP Auxiliary started back in 1960, with members in Rainy River District first dating back around 12 years ago.