M’CHIGEENG—A celebration took place last week to recognize three officers with the UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service who first began their careers 30 years ago (as original constables with the newly formed UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service) on November 9, 1992.
The three officers include Staff Sergeant Brad Mack, Sergeant Heather Debassige and Court Officer Max Abotossaway. “Thirty years in policing is challenging, but 30 years in First Nation policing, helping build the service from its infancy to where we are today and where we want to go into the future takes longevity, perseverance, and dedication. These officers have displayed all these attributes,” stated Chief of Police James Killeen.
UCCM APS staff and Health Sciences North/Horizon Sante’ Nord police crisis response team members recognized Staff Sergeant Brad Mack, Sergeant Heather Debassige and Court Officer Max Abotossaway each with 30 years of service with UCCM APS. Staff enjoyed a luncheon, along with Chief of Police Killeen presenting the officers with service recognition plaques for their years of service.
Staff Sergeant Brad Mack told The Expositor, “If I were to compare policing with other areas, I would say that we are very fortunate to be on Manitoulin Island. I don’t think I would have wanted to police anywhere else. I like to build relationships and meet people and being part of a small community and the Island has allowed for this. In the past 30 years, I have been fortunate to make good friends across the Island, from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Reserve to Meldrum Bay.”
“Back then, when we were hired 30 years ago, we were hired by the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) First Nation Policing Bureau,” recalled Staff Sergeant Mack. “We were new officers under experienced officers like Albert Beaudin, Wally Corbiere, Ray Corbiere, and Rendell McDonald. At that time, we were all under the OPP First Nation Policing Bureau.” “We were all hired at the same time and worked for a few years, before the final agreement was signed on Wednesday, November 9, 1992 for our own stand-alone police service,” said Staff Sergeant Mack.
He noted that on November 9, 1992, all three officers reported to the OPP academy in Brampton for basic training. “We were all sworn in after three weeks and in December we were working on the road on Manitoulin.” In January, 1993 all three officers were sent to the OPP College in Aylmer, Ontario. “Back in the day, we wore the West Bay Police shoulder flank,” said Staff Sergeant Mack. “And on March 7, 1996 the formal document was signed and we were stationed in the storefront office beside the former Abby’s Restaurant in 1994, until we moved into this new detachment building in 2006.”
“We were all probationary constables for a year,” explained Staff Sergeant Mack. “You start out as fourth-class level constables and every year you move up in level class until you become a constable.” Staff Sergeant Mack noted that he was originally raised in southern Ontario. “But my mom is from M’Chigeeng and I spent a lot of summers here-it was like my summer home. The extended family I have here was my big draw to move, live and work here in M’Chigeeng.” “30 years, I never thought that far ahead at the time,” said Staff Sergeant Mack.
However, a future as a police officer was in the cards early for Mr. Mack. “I knew going into high school. Policing was my career goal. I took the law and security administration program at Fanshawe College in 1988-1989.” “I have always maintained, the day I stop being a police officer is when I am no longer effective,” said Staff Sergeant Mack.
Staff Sergeant Mack said he has seen many changes take place in policing over the years.
“No doubt the biggest change has been internally with technology. Years ago, our occurrence reports were hand-written. Our Crown (court) briefs had to be written or typewritten. Now everything is done on computer.” “And in the field, I have observed back in the day everything in terms of instances, seemed to be fuelled by alcohol. Now it is harder drugs like opioids and cocaine that are fuelling many of the occurrences,” continued Staff Sergeant Mack.
“People are the same, but we are dealing with a whole different atmosphere. And with social media, you know people can video and monitor everything we do. Accountability is a big thing. Back in the day we could play practical jokes on each other in the office. Now everyone has to be absolutely professional in all capacities,” he recalled.
Sergeant Mack noted as well, “very few officers were trained in using 38 revolver pistols. Then in 1994 we went to .40 calibre semi-automatic pistols, and a few years ago went to nine-millimetre pistols. Not many officers are left who went through all these changes.”
“We are so fortunate to be working and living on Manitoulin Island. You can go from Little Current to Gore Bay and see the North Channel, the beautiful landscape. I am very happy to be able to police here and I am looking forward to working a few more years and helping younger officers get started. What officers like Ray and Wally taught me, I’m passing along to younger officers, including, for instance, Wally’s grandson!”