It’s a moving tradition, almost guaranteed to induce goosebumps: the final radio sign-off of retiring police officers or detachments.
Today, Monday, Jul. 18, 2022, marked just such an occasion, but this time calling attention to the dozens of employees and their nearly 20 years of service as the first line of emergency response for eastern Ontario, as the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Communications Centre in Smiths Falls ceased operations.
The closure of the Communications Centre (often referred to as the Provincial Communications Centre or PCC by those within the service) was announced in May 2021. According to Bill Dickson, Acting Manager of Communications for the OPP East Region, this decision “was not made lightly and only after a comprehensive review and analysis of workload, human resources impacts, facilities costs, operational efficiencies and technology-related cost and re-alignment opportunities developed.” In short, the Communications Centre has been closed as the OPP attempts to “modernize, reinvest, and enhance service delivery” to the communities the OPP serves.
Since the announcement of the slated closure, the OPP have worked to reassign the mostly civilian OPP employees of the Communication Centre. Requests for information about the results of these reassignment efforts were not immediately responded to by time of publication.
Illustrating the importance of those working in 9-1-1 dispatch and the relationship those employees build with the officers they communicate to, the final sign-off took over four minutes, as OPP detachments across eastern Ontario expressed gratitude for the vital service provided by the Smiths Falls Communication Centre, and the people behind that service.
“To all Ontario Provincial Police officers within eastern Ontario, this will be the final communication from the Provincial Communications Centre here in Smiths Falls. Since 2003, the staff here at the PCC have tried our utmost best to provide you, the officers on the road, with every possible piece of information relating to whatever incidents we were dispatching you to,” the Communications Centre’s final radio transmission began.
“Your safety, and that of all the people involved in each and every dispatch call, has always been our No. 1 priority. The tragic scenes witnessed and experienced while on the job are not only embedded with you officers who attend the calls, but stay with us dispatchers as well.
“Although the public never sees or hears the calls of life-saving bravery and heroism, they are the ones that we here at the Provincial Communications Centre in Smiths Falls will remember forever,” the “final call” concluded.
“July 18, 2022, at 11:14 a.m., Smiths Falls PCC: 10-7.”
The call numbers 10-7 relay ‘out of service’ or ‘off duty’ in police communications.
While the entirety of the response to the sign-off can be heard on the Renfrew County Scanner YouTube channel, complete with the evident emotion in the voices of those on the radio, here are some of the moving sentiments relayed to those at the Communications Centre following its sign-off:
“Thank you for everything you have done, and we will miss you all.”
“From everybody in Lanark, thank you so much. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us.”
“Thank you for waking us up in the middle of the night all those years. We appreciate it, thank you,” said the OPP East Region Canine Unit, which is often called in to respond to the most urgent police matters, such as missing children or suspects at large.
“From L&A County Detachment, thank you for your service, always top notch.”
“Thank you for keeping me safe,” one detective stated frankly.
“Smiths Falls: from the Cornwall Regional Task Force, thanks to the best comms centre in the OPP. Take care.”
“From OPP Prescott, we thank you so much for everything you’ve done for us. Thank you.”
“From all units in Frontenac, thank you very much.”
“From all units in Russell County: PCC Smiths Falls, thank you for all your help and for watching over us during those times.”
Messages of thanks were radioed out from single officers on patrol, officers representing full OPP detachments throughout eastern Ontario, staff of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), prisoner transport services, mobile OPP units, and others who “already find it difficult not to hear your voices every day.”
“Smiths Falls PCC is clear, handing everything over to Orillia,” the transmission concluded, followed only by a lone voice: “Good work, and thank you.”
In May 2021, the OPP assured Ontarians that the transition to the eventual closure of the Smiths Falls OPP Communications Centre would not impact 9-1-1 or any other emergency service dispatching. Dispatching services for OPP detachments throughout the eastern Ontario region have been transferred to the nearest Communications Centre locations to the respective detachments.
This article will be update if/when response from the OPP is received.