CORNWALL – Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, (SD&G) has a new Ontario Provincial Police, (OPP) detachment commander.
Inspector Marc Hemmerick has been selected to lead the counties more than 100 officers into what he expects to be an effective and efficient future for its members and the communities they serve in.
Hemmerick is an OPP veteran who was raised in Cornwall, experienced policing in different parts of the province, in both urban and rural communities and is now ideally positioned to share his progressive attitude about policing with SD&G.
One of the challenges Hemmerick believes members of the SD&G OPP face is the sometimes-negative impression residents have of their police force.
He said, “The greatest policing challenge I see right now is actually the negative publicity and media coverage that the police are receiving in Canada.
From my personal experience, I have seen bad things be done by police officers but in comparison to all of the great things that police officers do for community, day in and day out and the great work they put in, there is absolutely no comparison.”
Hemmerick said, “My number one priority actually is to ensure that we are highlighting the fantastic work that the members of this detachment are doing for their communities so we can push back against that negative narrative.”
The new commander has a healthy interest in how social issues and criminal activities sometimes merge, making a police force job more challenging and often more difficult.
“My views are very progressive when it comes to policing,” he said.
“I certainly believe that our number one mandate is public safety, and I can certainly tell you when I began my career and for a long time the police were the go-to service, whether it was a social problem or health problem.”
Different community associations already deal with a variety of social and health issues that can result in the police becoming involved.
“We are not experts when it comes to social and health problems; those are out of our expertise. I am a huge believer in the collaborative approach [in that] I do feel that public safety being number one that the police have a role to play, but I also feel we should be partnering up with proper community partners in order to ensure that public health and social problems do not become criminal ones; we have a major social role to play.”
When the police and other social services can seamlessly collaborate with each other, the community benefits.
“If you look at any community satisfaction survey in regard to the service residents get from the OPP, we are always scoring tremendously high, well above 90 per cent.
When you look at the crime scene index that is kept by Stats Canada, this is one of the top 50 safest communities in all of Canada, but we still need positive education and interactions. It comes back to the idea of collaboration,” he said.
Hemmerick said the police are becoming more socially aware of its place and what is expected of them.
“The public’s expectation of us has evolved. They are demanding more accountability,” he said, adding, “How do we better collaborate with our community partners to ensure public safety but also to connect those people who are in crisis or in need with [of] the best services possible.”
Hemmerick grew up in Cornwall.
After winning a scholarship to a university in Michigan. The athletic degree he achieved left him wanting something more.
“Once that was completed the degree did not match up with what I saw myself doing with the rest of my life, which was health and physical education,” he said.
Growing up he had a fondness for first responders.
“My admiration for first responders and my sense of community and giving back to the community matched up. I got a degree in police foundations in Ottawa and was hired by the OPP.”
He worked for years in an urban setting such as Toronto and then was transferred in 2008 to the SD&G detachment. There he served as a front-line patrol officer.
He left the detachment in 2017 and was seconded to the Akwesasne Mohawk Police and worked in the Hawkesbury detachment and Lanark County and was also the regional manager for traffic and Marine at the OPP Eastern Region Headquarters.
In April, when he went back to Hawkesbury, he was named as the detachment commander.
Hemmerick believes that leadership is made up of three important foundations: integrity, strong communication, and empathy. “If you do not have those three legs you cannot be a good leader,” he said. “I [take] the lead from the front leadership style. I would never ask someone to do something I was not willing to do myself.”
That attitude is demonstrated in his relationship with his community and the social partnerships he intends to foster.