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From Commuters to Cops: The History of the OPP Marine Unit

By: Steven Bull (Host, Water Ways)

1949 Ontario Provincial Police Boat 'Temagami'- a 22' Shepherd Runabout Deluxe Sedan
1949 Ontario Provincial Police Boat 'Temagami'- a 22' Shepherd Runabout Deluxe Sedan

If you spend enough time on the lakes, rivers, and canals of Ontario you’re sure to see an OPP Marine Unit vessel. Outside of a few larger jurisdictions with their own marine units – such as Toronto, Durham Region, Peel Region, Niagara – the Ontario Provincial Police is responsible for the rest. That’s about 95 percent of waterways across the province.


But it hasn’t always been this way.


In fact, the first boats the OPP had were used to transport uniformed officers to an island to do their land-based patrols.


Over time, that changed, and the OPP took over the provincial marine policing responsibilities. Today there are more than 360 officers and 170 boats from Lake Superior to Lake Erie.


In 1949, the OPP commissioned two wooden boats be built. Shepherd Boats, built in Niagara-On-The-Lake, were Chrysler-powered, 22-foot mahogany "Runabout Deluxe Sedan" models complete with side windows that rolled up and down like in a car.


But the police don't hang on to every piece of equipment in some massive warehouse once it's outlived its working life. So it was eventually sold off, assumed to be lost to the boating world forever. In 2010, word got back to OPP General Headquarters that a 1949 Shepherd believed to be an old OPP boat was for sale.


There were no serial numbers and records to verify it, so they used a more rudimentary – but definitive – authentication method.


Back when the Shepherds were launched there weren’t decals to affix the name to the hull. Instead, they had to screw the metal letters in. So when they climbed inside the hull, the were able to match the screw holes perfectly to the letters that would have spelled out "ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE" in the same location and arched pattern as you can see in the old photographs.


Verification complete, there was still business to conduct. This boat was for sale, not a donation. So how to ensure it made it back to the OPP and not into the hands of a private collector?


Cue The Friends of the OPP Museum. It is a registered charitable organization focused on preserving the history of the OPP and the OPP Museum located within the massive General Headquarters building in Orillia. They raised the funds to purchase the boat and make sure it was restored to its showcase-worthy glory and set in pride-of-place in the lobby.


Finally, the Temagami is home for good.


Check out the exclusive segment from BoatBlurb and WaterWays below:

#culture #shepherdboats

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