The “Year 148 Canada Day” parade, last summer, was up to and, perhaps, even surpassed, the usual high standards of a Wellington parade. Leading off was an OPP cruiser, replete with an oft-repeated “Happy Canada Day” greeting. It felt a bit out of place, because one usually associates the voice inside a police car with some more intimidating message, such as, “Pull over and come out with your hands up.”
Having just returned from Toronto, I am struck by the number of bicycle-based police there and how much more approachable they appear than police in a cruiser. Maybe itis the short pants they sport; of course, for all I know, cruiser-bound police could be wearing just their underwear. While I don’t fault the OPP for participating in the parade or in fish derbies or cram the cruiser events, I do wonder if the cruiser itself is an obstacle, when it comes to softening the image of our police force.
It’s not a purely academic issue, because the OPP values statement sets out that the organization “commits to working continually to earn the confidence of the citizens of and visitors to Ontario; confidence that will not be taken for granted. The OPP fulfills this commitment by providing the best and most professional service possible and by striving to build a culture of trust.”
In an interview with the Wellington “Times,” several months ago, the County’s detachment commander stated, essentially, that public safety was the overarching priority of the force. If that meant civility was a sometime casualty, well, so be it. If the image, of the OPP, can soften, without affecting public safety, surely it’s a win-win proposition.
In the search for that win-win proposition, and, in recognition, of the fact moving to a bicycle based force may not be completely practical in our spread-out County, I have just one word to throw into the means-of-police-transportation mix: water buffaloes.
A recent New York “Times” article documented the success that police on the Brazilian island of Marajo, home to about 450,000 of the creatures, were having in using water buffaloes as police patrol ‘vehicles.’ Better swimmers than dogs, more agile than horses, water buffalo also have an advantage that one police officer summarized this way, “Being the guy on the buffalo makes me more approachable, making my job a little bit easier.” Others maintain tensions between police and residents lessen by virtue of the fact that police use the same animal as do residents.
So successful has the use of water buffaloes been that local officers are hoping to export their expertise. Says one, “Look what people have accomplished since they started riding horses instead of eating them. Our buffalo patrol could be the start of something huge.”
I hear your objection. Where could the County OPP possibly get hold of water buffaloes? Actually, they don’t have to look far at all. Just north of Stirling, on the way to Marmora, is the farmstead of the Ontario Water Buffalo Company, home to some 450 of the creatures.
It’s hard not to do a double take as you drive past this farmstead or to think you have stumbled on a scene from Beasts of the Southern Wild. Now, I am the first to admit that the police in Stirling should have the first dibs on the animals, but given the Stirling-Rawdon, police force has only eight officers, the smallest force in Ontario, there would appear to be much excess inventory for another police force that wants to get the jump on its rivals. Given the County’s insistence on innovative, local, we’re less than 65 km apart, solutions, as well as its flair for publicity. I also suggest that the County OPP detachment be the one that seeks to get that jump.
The best thing about the water buffalo is that you can use it to produce cheese, ricotta and mozzarella, and meat, over and above the fact that you can ride it and pet it. You just can’t use if for meat and ride it or pet it, at the same time.
If you happen to see a goodly number of gruff looking people in civilian gear at this year’s Water Buffalo Food Festival, to be held in Stirling on September 19, don’t be alarmed when you see them test driving the product. They’ll just be our local police on an undercover mission; to be the first force to go cuter than a cruiser, which is cute.
Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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