By Valerie Posthumus
The Haldimand Press
Chris Dennis is an Auxiliary Staff Sergeant, Unit Commander with the Haldimand County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). A lifelong resident of Cayuga, she is also the Office Coordinator at Hagersville Secondary School.
“I can’t go anywhere where I don’t know someone,” said Dennis as she laughed.
She began her career as an auxiliary constable in 2007. She came to a point in time where she felt that she “should probably do something productive” and becoming an auxiliary member felt like the right move for her. After moving up the ranks, she applied for the Staff Sergeant position when it became available in 2018.
The OPP auxiliary’s tagline is ‘Volunteers for a better Community’.
“It is the most unique volunteer opportunity and it’s just fun…. Haldimand is a very welcoming detachment for auxiliaries,” said Dennis. “I’ve been nicknamed the Parade Queen, as I always seem to be at the front leading a parade through town.”
Dennis said that any position within the OPP takes a desire to give back to the community.
“I love the community service part of it, which is our main duty,” she said. The auxiliary position in particular requires community service, but also entails going out on patrol with a constable on duty. Dennis stressed, “You are a regular citizen, you are not an officer at all.”
Auxiliary members assist regular force officers. Duties can include assisting with community events and safety initiatives such as parades, information booths, bike rodeos, Lock It or Lose It, Speedwatch, and Safeguard, as well as going out on patrol. Dennis stressed, “While you have unique training and knowledge as a policing volunteer, you are just a regular citizen and not an officer.”
While auxiliary members do not carry a firearm, there is one available to them should they need it. They are also trained in using the officer’s equipment. “When out on patrol, you are there as an extra set of eyes, but if things suddenly go sideways you need to be there to back up that officer.” said Dennis. “If it came down to it, you would have to be ready and have that knowledge and confidence to back that officer up. You could save the officer’s life as well as your own in doing so.”
She’s been very fortunate while on patrol that she hasn’t yet seen anything horrendous, such as a bad accident, but said “the possibility is always there.”
“When I put the uniform on I feel very proud!” said Dennis, adding that her family attended her graduation and didn’t recognize her with her uniform on and her hair pulled back amongst the 90 graduates in her class.
All auxiliary applicants must successfully complete a seven-day Auxiliary Recruit Training Course and commit 10 hours of community service, as well as six hours in training per month. Auxiliary recruits are also encouraged to participate in fitness testing during their recruit orientation.
“People join the auxiliary for different reasons. Some to give back and be involved in their community, others use it as a stepping stone to regular force. If someone is interested in a career in policing this is definitely a way to get your feet wet and see if it’s the right path for you,” said Dennis.
“It is honestly the most unique volunteer experience you will have,” she concluded. “Haldimand is a great place to volunteer in. Small communities spread over a big area and there’s always a lot of events to get involved with.”
Haldimand is currently recruiting new auxiliary members, so if interested in more information visit opp.ca/careers.