The Barrie Police Service is the fourth oldest police force still in existence in Ontario, after the Kingston Police Service (1841), the Hamilton Police Service (1833) and the Brockville Police Service (1832).
However, this distinction was almost never realized. On July 1, 1946, Barrie Town Council disbanded the Barrie Police Force and for the next 9 1/2 years, the Ontario Provincial Police patrolled local streets.
The Barrie Police Service came into being in 1853 as a one-man police force when Chief Joseph Rogers was hired as the County Constable for Simcoe County, which included the Town of Barrie.
Over the next 155 years, eight other officers served as Police Chief. Chief Robert King has the distinction of being the longest-serving chief, holding the post for 35 years from 1888-1923.
By the 1920s and 1930s, the Barrie Police Force had suffered from several controversies and chronic under-staffing.
In 1941, one such controversy led Barrie Town Council to demand the resignation of the entire police force, with the exception of two recently hired constables. Although this decision was later reversed, the town still suffered from a lack adequate policing, especially due to the influx of military personnel from Camp Borden.
The Ontario government offered to increase the OPP presence in the area to back up the town force, but on occasion, the Military Police would be left to deal with misbehaving military personnel.
By the mid 1940s, the Barrie Police Force had grown to 10 members and the annual policing costs had risen to $21,000. Included in these costs, was the purchase of a new two-way radio for the police cruiser in December 1945.
Due to the previous problems and the rising police costs, Barrie Town Council elected to disband the Barrie Police Force and contract the OPP to police Barrie.
On July 1, 1946, the OPP took over policing the Town of Barrie.
The new Barrie detachment was headed by Sgt. H.H. Peel, a 20-year veteran of the OPP, who transferred from the Welland detachment. The initial contract called for a complement of 10 officers at a cost of $1,750 per officer per year, with total costs amounting to $17,500.
Today, when the OPP takes over a municipal police service, all uniform members automatically become OPP officers. In 1946, this wasn't the case and initially only four of the nine serving officers from the Barrie Police Force were taken on with the OPP.
Acting Chief James Case, a 27-year veteran of the Barrie Police Force, was not one of them. Instead, he became a parking meter inspector for the town.
The offices of the new municipal detachment were located in the basement of the Barrie Municipal building on Collier Street.
By 1952, policing costs in Barrie had risen to almost $60,000 per year for the now 12-member Barrie detachment. Shocked by this dramatic rise in policing costs, Barrie Town Council held talks to reform the Barrie Police Force, but no action was taken at that time and the OPP would continue to police Barrie for the time being.
As the 1950s progressed, Barrie Town Council grew increasingly dissatisfied with the level of service and dramatically rising costs from the OPP, which struggled to keep up with the policing needs of the growing town.
However, what ultimately put the reformation of the Barrie Police Force into motion was the OPP stating its intentions to voluntarily withdraw services from Barrie and other towns with populations of less than 2,000.
On Oct. 15, 1955, newly installed Chief Constable Edward Tschirhart, a former detective sergeant from the Kitchener Police Force, assumed his duties and began the process of rebuilding the town police.
Chief Tschirhart had his work cut out for him. He was given only six weeks to put together and train the new force, a task made harder by the fact that of all the applicants, only two had previous policing experience.
On Jan. 1, 1956, the Barrie OPP Detachment, then headed by Detachment Commander Sergeant Morley Wright, officially handed back policing duties for the Town of Barrie to the Barrie Police Force. For his new force, Chief Tschirhart had a complement of 16 sworn officers and one rented cruiser for use by his officers.
From this rebirth, the Barrie Police Service and the City of Barrie have continued to grow. Today, the Barrie Police Service has a complement of more than 200 police officers and almost 100 full-time civilian members who are responsible for a 77-sq.-km patrol area and a population of more than 128,000.
Although they relinquished municipal policing duties, the OPP did not completely leave Barrie. They established a permanent detachment on Rose Street at Highway 400 in 1958, one that still exists today.
Past Barrie Police Chiefs:
- 1853-1888 Chief Joseph Rogers (County Constable)
- 1888-1923 Chief Robert King
- 1923-1924 Chief James Case
- 1924-1945 Chief Alexander Stewart
- 1945 - Chief B.B. Burtchael
- 1946 - Acting Chief James Case
- 1946-1956 OPP contract services
- 1956-1976 Chief Ed Tschirhart
- 1976-1985 Chief Earl Snider
- 1985-2000 Chief Jack Delcourt
- 2000-Present Chief Wayne Frechette
Special thanks to Chief Wayne Frechette and Mrs. Elfrieda Tschirhart for their assistance with this article.
To see the full Barrie Advance article, go to - http://www.simcoe.com/article/64505