Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service celebrates 25 years

For the first time, a colour guard wearing WTPS’ new number one dress uniforms carried the flags at the opening of this special event.

Force unveils a refreshed look, honours its long-serving members with awards

LITTLE CURRENT – The Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service (WTPS) recently celebrated 25 years of serving its community at a celebration at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current where it unveiled a new logo, a number one dress uniform and honoured its long-serving officers and dedicated community members.

“What we’re really hoping to accomplish is that we’re building a service that will continually recognize our officers and staff for the work they do. They’ve never asked for it; everybody is very humble, and officers in general are humble of the work they do. That’s our job. We serve,” WTPS Police Chief Terry McCaffrey told The Expositor. 

He said his staff have never raised issue with any lack of recognition; seeking others’ validation for their work is not in their nature. However, he felt it was important as an organization to recognize all of the hard work within the force while also helping the community to understand what officers have to face in their jobs.

Part of the recognition was two awards for a notable officer and a notable civilian in Wiikwemkoong. The new Arthur Jacko Sr. and Jim Wakegijig Memorial Officer of the Year Award was presented to Detective Sergeant Todd Fox. 

While Detective Sergeant Fox received a small trophy to keep in honour of the occasion, there is a larger trophy that will remain with the police service and be updated with the names of future recipients. 

At first glance, the permanent trophy may seem to be an odd shape, but Police Chief McCaffrey explained the object is an artifact found from the early days of WTPS. It was a hand-print roller to help process and gather details of individuals in custody, which was a messy, awkward and difficult process before the staff devised this contraption.

“It speaks to the ingenuity our officers had and the resiliency, as Indigenous police services, that we have. The truth of the matter is Indigenous police services were originally designed and set up to fail by providing us with significant under-resourcing and staffing. It was the dedication of individuals like Art Jacko Sr. and Jim Wakegijig that would not allow this program to fail,” said Police Chief McCaffrey.

Another element of the evening was service pins for all officers who have given 20 years of service in First Nations communities. Family members of Mr. Jacko and Mr. Wakegijig were invited to give out the memorial award, but once they arrived those families were each surprised with 20-year service pins in honour of Mr. Jacko and Mr. Wakegijig.

Officers of the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service (WTPS) attended the event dressed in their newly designed number one dress uniforms in the style of an honour guard high collar dress uniform.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to pass them down from generation to generation, celebrating that their great-grandfathers were some of the protectors here in our community this many years ago,” said Police Chief McCaffrey.

The inaugural WTPS Civilian of the Year Award went to Theresa Trudeau, the court case manager for WTPS. All officers who have served 20 or more years in First Nations communities received service recognition pins.

The police service itself has received a new look to celebrate its 25th year. The force has a new vehicle design, refreshed logo and a striking number one dress uniform. The outgoing dress uniform was a standard blazer with a white shirt and a tie, the same as the majority of police services in Ontario.

“We looked to redevelop our dress uniform with what’s called an honour guard high collar dress uniform,” said Police Chief McCaffrey, adding that all of the accoutrements for the uniform such as collar dogs, belt buckle, brass pieces and shoulder tiles were redesigned through group discussions and a collaborative process.

“This night was the first time we all had the chance to wear them since redeveloping them. From the photos, everybody looked very sharp,” he said.

For the first time, a ceremonial colour guard led the flags into the event. There were also traditional drummers who performed an honour song.

The police force will be placing strong emphasis on the thunderbird in its new logo, as it represents protection, strength and new beginnings. The Seven Grandfather Teachings are also well-represented through animal footprints and the phrase Enaagdawenjiged, meaning ‘the one who serves/protects,’ is displayed prominently on its vehicles’ hoods.

Former police chief John McCabe attended the event to give a keynote address.  

Police Chief McCaffrey said First Nations policing has begun to transform from the pilot programs started many years ago. The nine First Nations police forces in Ontario have formed closer ties.

“We’re working with the provincial and federal governments to make sure our police services are essential, and making sure Indigenous communities receive the same safety and security as do citizens (elsewhere),” said Police Chief McCaffrey.

He thanked the volunteer-based police services board that came together to help organize the event and ensure that WTPS continues to integrate well in the community.

He also acknowledged the family support and the many sacrifices policing families must make in order to continue offering their services to their communities.

“Without our families, we would not be as effective or efficient. I know I wouldn’t be able to do the job I do without the support of my wife and kids. Sometimes they’re forgotten in the grand scheme of policing, but our family members lift us up,” he said.

Police Chief McCaffrey said this special event is expected to become an annual tradition, something he felt was important to the work WTPS staff perform every day.

“I have the unique perspective of having worked in three provinces for a number of police services of different sizes and shapes. I think I’m able to say that our officers work in challenging conditions, nobody complains, everybody puts forth their best efforts and we do an excellent job at keeping the community safe,” he said. “WTPS has some of the hardest-working officers in the country.”