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by Isabel Mosseler
On the evening of Thursday, May 30th, West Nipissing marked the closing of a chapter as 123 years of policing in the area was honoured before the West Nipissing Police Service transitioned to the OPP one week later. A crowd of approximately 110 people, primarily officers and their families, local dignitaries and those associated with local policing, gathered at the Marcel Noël Hall to offer their regards. Local historian Frances Laflèche-Cockburn, daughter of former police chief Simon Laflèche, paid homage to her own family ties and 104 years of policing in Sturgeon Falls, which evolved into 19 years of the West Nipissing Police Service following municipal amalgamation in 1999.
The organizers had amassed many photographs laid out on tables around the room, displays of uniforms, Billy clubs, handcuffs and other historical artefacts. The evening also saw local officers receive their hats to keep as a memento of their service.
WN Police Services Board chair Barry Bertrand named the various chiefs and their terms of office, noting that the police department in the early days also doubled as the fire department, and this close association never ended. He noted that Chief John Laflèche was the longest serving police chief in the country, with 37 years when he retired. His younger brother Simon, who joined the SFPD in 1941, took over.
Bertrand introduced former chief Merwin “Butch” Dupuis, who took over the role in 1963, the first local police chief to receive his certificate from the Ontario Police College. Bertrand related how Chief Dupuis came onto the service and continued his education, taking 17 police related programs, submitted a research paper examining 220 violent crimes in West Nipissing, which was published, and received his degree in Sociology from Laurentian University. Dupuis was noted for a tradition of working with local organizations, culminating in an award from the West Nipissing Public Service Association for his efforts.