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The official end of an era for the OPP in Barrie

December 2021

Although the Barrie Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) closed in November 2020, when it moved into a new building in Orillia, the demolition of the old building a year later really punctuates the end of an era.

The OPP came to Barrie in 1946, when the Town of Barrie found the rising costs of maintaining their own police force were becoming too much. On 1 July 1946, the OPP assumed policing duties in Barrie, with Sgt. H.H. Peel, a 20-year veteran of the OPP, becoming the first Detachment Commander.

The OPP operated out of the former Barrie Police office in the basement of the Barrie Municipal building on Collier Street.

By 1955, Barrie’s municipal council began the process of reforming their municipal police force, spurred on by rising costs of the OPP policing contract, in addition to the OPP stating its intentions to voluntarily withdraw services from Barrie and other towns with populations larger than 2,000.

On 1 January 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, headed by newly installed Chief Constable Edward Tschirhart, a 39-year-old former detective sergeant from the Kitchener Police Force

Although they relinquished municipal policing duties, the OPP did not completely leave Barrie. A new detachment building was opened on Rose Street, beside the newly constructed Highway 400, in 1956. Additionally, eight houses were built along Newton Street, a short walk from the new station, for the use of OPP officers.

The concept of government-supplied housing for OPP officers was usually reserved for northern postings, but Barrie’s Chamber of Commerce Industrial Committee were keen to keep an OPP presence in the town, and as part of the deal, housing would be made available to the OPP officers. Even in the 1950s, low-cost housing in Barrie had been a problem for decades, and the low pay that police officers received at the time didn’t help.

The Barrie OPP Detachment was responsible for policing Highway 400 and Highway 11, along with Oro and Medonte Townships, to the north of Barrie.

By the turn of the century, many of the OPP Detachment buildings built in the 1950s were coming to the end of their useful life, and being replaced with new, modern buildings. In 2018, instead of building a new building for the Barrie Detachment, it was decided to merge it with the Orillia Detachment, and relocate them to the planned new building on University Avenue in Orillia.

On 26 November 2020, the Barrie OPP Detachment officially closed their building to the public, and the building was decommissioned, officially ending an era of the OPP within the City of Barrie boundary.

With the demolition of the old building now underway, Simcoe County council, the new owners of the property, will consider options for future development. One of the options being actively advanced is for affordable housing units, with construction anticipated to begin in the spring of 2024.

One significant relic of the OPP presence in Barrie does remain, however: the eight former OPP houses on Newton Street. When the houses were declared surplus to the OPP’s needs in the 1970s, they were sold-off, some to OPP officers who wanted them. All of them are well maintained, and some have been significantly upgraded.

Also read:

Sources: https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/opp-satellite-office-in-barrie-closing-thursday-2907508, https://www.thestar.com/local-barrie/news/2021/06/28/what-s-going-on-here-former-barrie-opp-station-sold-to-county-of-simcoe.html?itm_source=parsely-api, Barrie, Orillia OPP to merge – Orillia News (orilliamatters.com), Former Barrie OPP property to be home for ‘badly needed’ social housing – Orillia News (orilliamatters.com).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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