OPP Chief Superintendent East Region

Jul 13th, 2017 | By | Category: Connecting With, On The Cover

Just being a police officer in this day and age is a challenge. Being the Chief Superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police for a huge area like the Eastern Region of Ontario, comes with its own ups and downs. Chris Harkins, a native of the Ottawa Valley, is the Chief Supt. for the Eastern Region. Mary Cook talked with Chief Harkins about his job, and what it entails.

Y@H: How long have you held this position?

CH: I was promoted to Chief Superintendent on Aug. 30, 2016.

Y@H: You probably have a long history with the OPP. When did it all begin for you?

CH: I joined the OPP in February of 1990 and my first posting was to Kakabeka Falls in northwest Ontario.

Y@H: How many OPP officers are under your command?

CH: There are approximately1,200, made up of 950 officers and 250 civilian employees.

Y@H: What area does the Eastern Region cover … where are the boundaries?

CH: The boundaries are Bancroft to Quinte to the west (Trenton), Cornwall to Hawkesbury to Pembroke/Deep River. There are 16 detachments in total,  which include waterways, trails and highways.

Y@H: How does this region differ from other regions in Ontario?

CH: The east region is one of the largest regions for the OPP. It is somewhat unique, with the US border on one side and the Quebec Border on the other. It also includes the National Capital Region and the uniqueness of working with our national policing partner, the RCMP.

Y@H: What special training was required for you to move into this top position in this area?

CH: I have a diverse background in policing. I have had the great fortune to work in many roles throughout my career, which includes front-line policing to drugs/organized crime investigations to surveillance to intelligence to major crime. Also, I have experience on the corporate side, as an executive officer to Deputy Commissioners as well as the Bureau Commander of the Fleet, Supply and Weapons Services Bureau. All of these experiences provided me with a broad understanding of policing, to better serve the members of East Region.

I am a graduate of the Rotman School of business, a graduate of the Global Studies program where I studied policing internationally with 20 other police leaders from Canada, travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore. And, recently, I received the Order of Merit from the Governor General. I also received a life-saving award a few years ago.

Y@H: How has policing changed since you first became an officer?

CH: Policing has changed a lot when it comes to technology, social media, equipment and the level of community partners in today’s policing. Expectations are high, and they should be.

Y@H: Do you have any control, or say, in the hiring of new officers wanting to enter the force?

CH:  I have no control over hiring, that’s done through our Career Development Bureau and Commissioner’s Committee. However, I do have the opportunity to provide input at the executive level on the types of people we should be hiring.

Y@H: Take me through a normal day as Chief Superintendent.

CH: My day as a chief is not usually all that routine. My day typically involves balancing my time dealing with the administrative side of the job to  ensuring that I am accessible and visible in the Region. I like to be out in the field and accessible to our members, to ensure that I am looking after their best interests, as well as those of our communities.

Y@H: Did you bring in any changes when you took over your new position?

CH: What I have brought to East Region is a leadership style that is strong on communications both from me, as well as  the opportunity for our members, at all levels including civilians, to provide input, ideas and challenges.

I have implemented a “ride-along” initiative where I attend  each detachment and go out on a shift with a front-line officer, answering calls for services, etc with the officer. This provides the opportunity for me to see, first-hand, some of the challenges, and also to get to know the people I am representing. It also provides the officers with an opportunity to ask me questions and get a sense of who their Chief is.

I am also big on consistency, looking at how we operate from one detachment to the other, to bring a level of consistency to the region. I am also pushing community engagement at all levels, whether it be our officers doing foot patrols, attending community events or getting out of their cars instead of using a drive-thru, with the goal of  increasing our engagement with the people we serve. Our communities and our community partners should always be of utmost importance to us all.

Y@H: What advice can you give to someone wanting to become an OPP officer?

CH: I would certainly recommend that anyone who is considering a career with the OPP should not only be physically fit, but also mentally fit for a challenging career. Common sense is another quality, with the desire to join the job to help others and to be a part of the community you live in and serve. Along with pride and professionalism.

Lastly,  I would add that they should volunteer in the community and that the OPP offers such a wide variety of opportunities once on the job. It’s remarkable, really, the different avenues a person can take in their policing career in the OPP. I have taken advantage of that as should anyone coming on. If you work hard and be positive, the opportunities are endless.

Y@H: Have you any regrets about taking over this top position?

CH: No regrets at all! I enjoy every aspect of my job. Working with the community stakeholders and the members of the OPP is very rewarding. Yes, there are days that are challenging but that comes with the job. I believe in always striving to be better in order to serve our communities in the best possible way.

Coming east has also been rewarding on a personal front, being able to return to the east where I was born and raised is a bonus. I am quite familiar with the east, in particular the Ottawa Valley, so it’s really nice to be home. My wife Denise is from Renfrew, so it’s also an opportunity to be closer to her family. We have a daughter in university in Ottawa and another is working in Ottawa, so it’s certainly nice to be closer to our
daughters.

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