| Oct 01, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - October 1, 2009 New OPP community officer walks the walkBy Jeff Green

Sgt. Jim Birtch prefers walking to driving around in a cruiser all day, which makes him a bit of an anomaly with the Ontario Provincial Police.

“I like walking the streets. In municipal policing you walk an hour a day; I’ve never seen an OPP officer get out of a car yet, oh, except at a Tim Horton's.”

Jim Birtch, who took over as Community Sergeant at the Sharbot Lake satellite detachment (affiliated with the Perth detachment) back in June, knows something about walking a beat.

He worked a beat in his home town of Carleton Place for many years before the OPP took over the local force some five years ago, and has been working for the OPP ever since.

Aside from the matter of walking instead of driving, Birtch likes what the OPP has done for Carleton Place, and he is also happy to be working, at his own request, at the Sharbot Lake satellite detachment. He is also hoping to get out on the streets of the small villages in Central and North Frontenac to do a bit of walking, although he has found that some of the distances are somewhat daunting.

“I had [Officer] Chuck Peterkin take me around the township,” he told members of North Frontenac Council at a courtesy visit he made to their meeting last Thursday, September 24, “and I never thought I'd get back.”

Birtch said that his job is to work with the communities, to be the public face of the OPP in the two townships, and this is something that he has enjoyed doing throughout his career. “Community policing is what I like the most, and I think people like to see police in their communities; it adds something,” he said.

There are supposed to be eight officers assigned to Sharbot Lake, in addition to Birtch and Court Officer Carl Wagar, enough to keep a single cruiser on the road 24 hours a day, but with illnesses, leave and transfers, there have been difficulties getting that many people assigned to the detachment. Two new officers will be arriving in November, which will bring the total to seven.

“I know there were a lot more officers here when Sharbot Lake was a stand-alone detachment,” he said, “but I can assure council that the officers who are assigned to this detachment do work here. Their locker is in Sharbot Lake, and that is where their guns and equipment are stored. So they must begin and end their shift in Sharbot Lake; they cannot check in from somewhere else.”

While Jim Birtch said he has been tied down somewhat with administrative matters at the Sharbot Lake detachment since arriving in early June, he is now taking the opportunity to put a more public face to the unit.

STUFF A CRUISER FOR THE FOOD BANK: To that end, and to support the North Frontenac Food Bank, on Saturday, October 17, the Sharbot Lake detachment will be sponsoring a “Stuff The Cruiser” event at the Sharbot Lake Freshmart. A cruiser will be parked near the store, and shoppers will be invited to purchase extra food to “stuff” into the cruiser. All donated food will be brought across the street to the Food Bank headquarters at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church.

Sgt. Birtch has organized Stuff The Cruiser events at other locations, but this will be a first for Sharbot Lake. 

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