S/Sgt. Dennis looks back over long career

In his 34 years of service to the Ontario Provincial Police, S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis has seen changes.
With the announcement that he’ll retire June 30, the detachment commander for Rainy River District for the last 12-and-a-half years took some time out recently to go over some of the adaptations he, and the organization, have done over the decades.
“Probably the biggest change has been technology. We’ve gone from handwritten reports to computerization,” remarked S/Sgt. Dennis, noting computer training and usage has become a part of the job description.
“It also means we’ve changed from having a local dispatch to a regional dispatch,” he added. “As a result, the information sharing has increased a hundred fold.”
S/Sgt. Dennis noted being able to share information easily and quickly, and with any other agencies no matter how far away, is an advantage to fighting crime.
But he added computer usage also has applications when it comes to crime, and so the OPP has had to keep learning to keep up with the culprits in this day and age.
A second significant change was the amalgamation of detachments in 1996. Prior to then, there was OPP detachments in Emo, Rainy River, and Atikokan, as well as the Fort Frances Police Service.
In 1996, all three OPP detachments consolidated, and the Fort Frances Police Service became the Fort Frances OPP detachment.
“It was a huge change,” said S/Sgt. Dennis, who had been at the Emo detachment prior to the merger.
“Raising the awareness of policing in the municipalities has made a big difference. It’s really improved communication with the municipalities,” he remarked.
“That said, the consolidation of the detachments has led to communication challenges [between detachments],” he admitted. “It takes a lot of hard work to make sure communication is to the standard it should be.”
S/Sgt. Dennis noted a third major change has been personnel.
“Women in policing has been such a huge improvement,” he said, adding the first female OPP officer here joined the force in 1974.
“Throughout the past 30 years, the organization’s growth and direction has changed as a result of the diversity on the force,” he remarked.
“It’s a large part of the changes in policing. It’s led to far more sensitive, compassionate policing,” added S/Sgt. Dennis, noting having a different gender perspective is highly useful when it comes to cases involving sexual assault or children, among others.
“I think the fact our commissioner is Gwen Boniface speaks to how the organization has changed and improved over the years,” he said.
As for the future, S/Sgt. Dennis and his wife, Robin, who is the human resources co-ordinator for the Ainsworth OSB mill in Barwick, will remain in the district.
“I’m looking forward to having the summer off,” he said. “But after that, I’ll just be taking it one day at a time.”