The Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Friday, March 29, 2013 8:34:45 EDT PM
Cornwall Community Police Service Staff Sergeant Garry Derochie. Submitted photo
Garry Derochie returned to civilian life on Friday, the day after retiring from the Cornwall Community Police Service.
Life as a civilian is a new game for him. The 64-year-old Cornwall native — he will turn 65 in September — hasn’t been a civilian since he was a teenager.
That’s when, at age 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy right out of high school, a career that took him to such exotic destinations as the Arctic Circle where, for awhile, he was squirreled away in an Alert, NWT, communications station tracking the Ruskies.
Alert is the most northernly inhabited place on the Earth, which meant you better get along with your co-workers.
His military stint (two years) was a hiccup compared to his next career path.
In 1970, fresh out of the pre-unification navy, he was sworn in as a Mississauga police officer and soon became a member of the Peel Regional Police force, which swallowed up Mississauga and several other municipal forces.
But, in 1976 the Cornwall Police Department came calling with the opportunity to return to his hometown, a move he has never regretted … “not for one minute.”
He has seen, as the saying goes, a lot of water flow under the bridge.
At least 79 of the force’s 135 members were not yet born when Derochie became a police officer, and until Thursday he was the oldest, longest-serving member of the force. The elder statesman torch has now been passed to Insp. Bob Burnie, 64, or as Burnie put it “to the new old fart.”
Upon hearing that so many members of the force were not yet born or were in diapers when he became a police officer, Derochie laughed, “Now that makes me feel real good.”
He is one of the few members of the force who can remember watching the Toronto Maple Leafs hoist the Stanley Cup.
Deputy Chief Danny Aikman called Derochie the consummate professional.
In a broadcast to the force, Aikman said, “Each of these leaders recognized Garry’s professionalism and his significant contributions to providing the best possible police service to the citizens of Cornwall.”
“Nobody has been more dedicated to the profession or more loyal to the organization,” said Aikman.
In 1984, Derochie was promoted to sergeant and just a few months later moved up the chain of command to staff sergeant. For a period he served as an acting inspector.
Of all the roles he played over the years, the most challenging was perhaps his last — officer in charge of professional standards.
Part of the job is dealing with complaints from the public about officers.
It’s a position that can put the professional standards officer on an island in a sea of blue.
Derochie, said Aikman, was effective at the job because he was able to deal with issues that crossed his desk in an equitable fashion.
In his four decades of policing, Derochie has seen tremendous changes. Most have enhanced policing in the community.
Others have made policing more demanding.
The Charter of Rights and Bail Reform Act have created a mountain of paperwork for today’s police officers. When Derochie became a police officer, an application for a search warrant was no more than a page or two. Today it can run a dozen or more pages.
One change has been the elimination of beat cops.
The beat cop, he noted, put officers more in touch with the public.
When he came to Cornwall, the force had three beats: Le Village, downtown and Pitt Street, from Fourth to Ninth. They were walked day and night, summer and winter.
A diehard Maple Leafs and Blue Jays fan, the retired staff sergeant hopes to be watching his Leafs play past April and the Jays swinging bats in October.
Between, he promises to use all the tools he has collected over the years and spend a lot of time in his garden.
Meanwhile, on Friday, as he put it, “I started a very, very long weekend.”