By Sheila Phibbs
The Haldimand Press
Backed by a 22-year career in the OPP, 15 of which were spent in Haldimand, Mary Gagliardi has recently taken on the role of Community Safety Officer for the Haldimand OPP.
In this new role, Gagliardi is responsible for all media releases for the Haldimand OPP on both the News Portal and social media. She is also very involved in the community, participating in fundraisers and attending elementary and secondary schools to talk to students on a range of topics, including drug awareness, cybercrime, and lockdown drills.
Gagliardi can also be seen facilitating safety campaigns, such as Lock It or Lose It, and engaging with the public at events like the Caledonia Fair. The position also involves producing short videos for social media to promote water safety, the importance of seatbelts, school bus safety, the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles during hot weather, and more.
Gagliardi attends all the major incidents that occur, such as serious or fatal motor vehicle collisions, structure fires, and certain sudden deaths. She is also involved when media releases are required in cases of missing persons, persons of interest, or suspects wanted by police. Regardless of where the job takes her, she is, of course, always attentive to the rules of the road and enforces them when necessary. She says, “After all, no matter what my title may be, I am still a police officer.”
As an officer, she added, “I have immense respect for my colleagues and I can relate to their everyday challenges because I have been there, I have done that.”
As Community Safety Officer, she has learned to write “just the facts”; news releases are concise and to the point, in contrast to police reports which contain much more detail. There is a commonality between the two styles of reporting though, as she explains, “As an officer that conducts general patrol, one must have excellent vocabulary, reading, and writing skills, so that aspect has already polished my skills and aptly prepared me for this role.”
Mindfulness of victims is critical as she works with media outlets to present news stories to the public. She acknowledges the challenge: “I always keep in mind that the victim may be reading or watching my media release…. I have to be careful to remain neutral and not have opinions about newsworthy incidents. I do not wish to offend anyone and try to treat all media outlets the same.”
While being out in the community, Gagliardi especially enjoys discovering the good news stories.
She says, “There is nothing I love more than discovering a person or persons … who is doing good in our community and basically making our world a better place to live.”
As she grows in the position, she is aware that Haldimand residents want to know what is happening in their community and rely on her to be a trusted voice of the OPP.
“I provide important public safety information,” she says. “It’s all part of the OPP’s goal to be transparent and accountable to the public we serve, which makes my communications skills essential at my detachment.”
Serving the public is something Gagliardi has done consistently for 22 years as a high school resource officer, an acting sergeant, and general patrol uniformed officer. She now has the support and resources from her command staff and colleagues to be a successful Community Safety Officer.
She is prepared to be quick on her feet each and every day to provide the necessary information in an unbiased, professional manner, maintaining transparency while not compromising an investigation.
It is a challenge Mary Gagliardi embraces and she says, “I am proud to be an OPP officer and especially proud to be the face of the Haldimand OPP.”