After many months of lead up, the town’s transition from the Perth Police Service to the O.P.P. officially took place on Saturday. Here are a few media links about the transition, as well as the text of my address as Board Chair during the swearing-in ceremony held at the Perth campus of Algonquin College on Saturday:

CBC news story from the swearing-in ceremony.

CTV news story about the transition.

Perth Courier story about the last police services board meeting as a Perth Police Service board before switching to an OPP board.

Lake 88 interview I participated in prior to the transition.

ADDRESS FOR SWEARING-IN CEREMONY, APRIL 6, 2013

STEPHANIE GRAY, PSB CHAIR

Thank you and welcome, everyone.

The story of policing in Perth has several distinct chapters.

The first chapter in this proud history opens in a wilderness setting almost 200 years ago, just after the War of 1812. Perth was established in 1816 by the British government as a strategic military outpost. Typically, such colonial towns relied on the military for their policing needs.

This began to change within a few decades when the modern concept of policing was introduced by the British Parliament of Sir Robert Peel, whose nine principles set out terms of deployment for police forces. As local governments became established in Canada, the military gave way to independent police forces. Towns appointed constables to police their communities, and the province created boards of commissioners to oversee them.

Chapter two begins almost 162 years ago when Perth established its own independent police service. On July 25, 1851, the town council passed Bylaw No. 27 appointing constables to enforce bylaws.

The town was incorporated three years later and on April 17, 1854, a bylaw was passed to appoint a chief constable for the town and a constable for each ward. The first Chief of Police was George Graham and his job was to ensure the safety of the constables and to ensure they kept the peace and good order within the town. Their duties were varied, but one was to “inform all homes of cattle or swine which may be running at large.” Don’t think runaway cows are a problem of the past – I have photos from the 1990s of our officers rounding up rebel cows downtown.

The first police office was established in 1859 and moved to the newly constructed Town Hall in 1864.

By the early 1900s Perth had a high school and industry was beginning to boom. Automobiles had hit the scene, and probably they hit a few fences on Craig Street, too. As times changed, so did officers’ roles. In 1910, Chief John Griffith was also Sanitary Inspector and Truant Officer, and another duty was to collect the mail from certain letter boxes at 7 p.m. each night and deliver it to post office officials. I’m pretty sure that isn’t in our current contract.

The next chief, Gordon Gilhuly, appointed in 1927, was not required to act as truant officer, but he still dealt with sanitation and the title of Inspector of Noxious Weeds was added to his duties.

Throughout the 1900s, the roles and responsibilities of the police continued to transform as more and different legislation came into effect. By the 1970s, departmental operations started to look more like they do today.

The Perth Police Service marked another historic occasion on May 27, 1999 when it moved from its town hall office to the new Police Fire Facility at 1881 Rogers Road, which featured a state-of-the-art communications centre. As of this year, the force’s complement consisted of Chief Pat Capello, 14 officers and 11 civilians.

The policing world continues to evolve and change, and new chapters will be written long into the future. While today’s police may not be acting as sanitation officers or noxious weed inspectors, they are tasked with a multitude of responsibilities and we rely on them for things that could never have been imagined 160 years ago.

I commend the officers and civilians of the Perth Police Service for their hard work and commitment to our community over the years. Even though that chapter is ending, it is a legacy that will not be forgotten, and we thank you.

Today, as we start a new chapter in Perth’s proud history of policing with the transition to the Ontario Provincial Police, we can move forward confident that public safety and keeping peace and good order within our community continue to be priorities, just as they have always been.

Thank you.

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