Kingston Police

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The Keepers of the Peace

No history of an organization would be complete without reference to the people who, through the years, provided the leadership that shaped the character of the force and, most important, to those who gave their lives in upholding its ideals.  In the early years, several of the “Chief Constables” came from the military, but since 1947 all have been professional career police officers.

  1840–1849 Samuel Shaw
  1849–1870 Robert Channonhouse
  1870–1874 John Robb
  1874–1881 Colonel S. B. Hance
  1881–1899 Captain Edwin Horsey
  1899–1918 William Baillie
  1918–1919 Robert Nesbitt
  1919–1946 Captain Robert J. Robinson
  1947–1958 John T. Truaisch
  1959–1974 Robert W. Nesbitt
  1974–1976 Roland R. Smith
  1976–1994 Gerald S. Rice
  1994–1995 William R. Hackett
  1995–2008 William J. Closs
  2008–2012 Stephen J. Tanner
  2013–Current Gilles M. Larochelle

Prior to the formation of the force, Samuel Shaw had already been the High Bailiff.  He served as Chief from December 1841 until March 12, 1849, when he was replaced by Robert Channonhouse.

Robert Channonhouse, prior to being appointed Chief, had for some time been an elected Councillor representing Ontario Ward.  When he resigned and replaced Samuel Shaw as Chief of Police, Shaw was one of the persons nominated to run for the Councillor’s position left vacant by Channonhouse’s resignation.  In the subsequent election, Shaw was unsuccessful and eventually was appointed Market Collector.

John Robb next became Chief, having joined the police force in 1846.  He served for many years as Sergeant Major until he became Acting Chief of Police in September 1870.  He was not confirmed as Chief until November 1871 and held that post until his death in October 1874.

The death of Robb left the small force of eight subconstables, two sergeants, and a sergeant major without a Chief.  The British Whig, in an editorial published on Tuesday, October 20, 1874, strongly urged that there was no need to appoint a Chief since the force was too small and could adequately be supervised by the Sergeant Major.  The main benefit of this would be the saving of the $700 annual salary that the Chief had received.  The writer stated, “the duties of Kingston Chief of Police are more ornamental than urgent.”  The Police Commission of the day apparently did not agree and was not influenced by the editorial.  On November 10, 1874, a small report appeared in the British Whig announcing that “Colonel S. B. Hance, late U.S. Consul in this city, was elected Chief of Police by the Police Commission.”  Since it was a time when anti-American sentiment ran very high in some quarters, there was an immediate outcry demanding to know why an American citizen had been appointed Chief over other applicants who were British subjects (British Whig editorial, November 11, 1874).  The Whig demanded to know why “three Tory politicians” would appoint an American.  Feelings were so strong that an “Indignation Meeting” was held in Memorial Hall on November 12, 1874, so that the Mayor and members of the Commission could explain their actions.  It would appear that the meeting was well attended, particularly by those opposed.  A resolution was passed requesting that the Police Commission reconsider and appoint a local man or at least a British subject.  The Police Commission, being independent of Council, apparently was unmoved by the protests, and Colonel Hance commenced his duties as Chief of Police on November 16, 1874.  He served in that position for the next seven years. 

Captain Horsey (appointed Chief in 1881) and Major William Baillie (appointed Chief in 1899) both came from the military.  Captain Horsey retired after 17 years of service and was apparently well regarded by both the members of the force and the other civic employees and officials.  The former presented him with an easy chair and the latter with a clock on his retirement.  Dedications accompanying these gifts conveyed the “desire to speak in the highest terms of . . . [his] soldierly and gentlemanly bearing both to the Commissioners and to those under . . . [his] charge” (dedication from the Board of Police Commissioners, signed April 29, 1899) and how Captain Horsey had “won the respect and confidence of the men of the force” (dedication from the sergeants and constables of the police force, dated April 28, 1899).

Major Baillie was a local man, born in Barriefield.  He had been employed in several local businesses and had an accounting background.  Baillie retired from the Royal Canadian Militia with the rank of major.  He was 50 years old when appointed Chief and received a yearly salary of $800.  This apparently was a very popular appointment, for over 15 friends, prominent citizens, and aldermen were in attendance at his installation on Monday, May 1, 1899, at the Police Court.

Robert Nesbitt was appointed Chief late in 1918.  The Daily Whig on January 6, 1919, reported that he was 60 years old.  This seems to be in error, since he had already served 41 years as a police officer in Kingston.  Moreover, he was born in Ireland and was alleged to have had several years of previous police service in Liverpool before immigrating to Canada.  He was first appointed constable on May 1, 1877, and served the citizens of Kingston for a total of 42½ years as a police officer, the last year as Chief.

Son of a noted Kingston boat builder, Captain Robert J. Robinson was born in Kingston in 1878 and, prior to World War I, was employed as an accountant at Livingston’s Men’s Wear.  In 1914 he enlisted as a captain in the 146th Battalion and went overseas as its Paymaster.  He returned after the war and applied for and was subsequently appointed Chief of Police on October 14, 1919, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Chief Nesbitt.  He was granted a leave of absence on June 15, 1946, and retired on December 31, 1946.  He was the longest serving Chief to date, appointed a total of 27 years.  Chief Robinson was the first President of the Police Association of Ontario, which from 1933 to 1950 represented all police personnel and their specific requirements and needs within the province of Ontario.  (In 1951, two association bodies evolved:  the Police Association of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.)

John T. Truaisch came to the force on June 15, 1946, as Deputy Chief after 11 years of service with the Ontario Provincial Police.  He was appointed Chief of Police as of January 1, 1947, and he served until his death in October 1958.  Chief Truaisch served as the 1955/56 President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

Robert W. Nesbitt, the grandson of the 1918 Chief Robert Nesbitt, joined the police force as a constable on August 1, 1940, and served in various ranks until 1959, when he was appointed Chief to succeed John Truaisch.  He retired in 1974 after 33 years of service.  He and his grandfather served on the force a total of 75½ years.

Roland R. Smith was born in England and immigrated to Canada.  He served a number of years on the police force in London, Ontario, and held the rank of inspector with that force at the time of his appointment as Kingston’s Police Chief in 1974.  He died in 1976 while serving as Chief of Police.

Gerald S. Rice began his police career with Ottawa’s police force and then served with the police forces in Brantford and North Bay, the latter as Deputy Chief, prior to being appointed Chief in Kingston in 1976.  He served in that position until 1994, when he tragically died of a heart attack one month before he was to commence retirement.

William R. Hackett joined the Kingston Police in 1951.  He held several key senior positions, including Deputy Chief, before being appointed Chief upon the death of Chief Rice.  He held the position for one year while the Police Services Board conducted a search for a new Chief and retired in 1995 after 44 years of service, the lengthiest service ever recorded by an officer with the Kingston Police.  In recognition of his service, a city park was named in his honour, and in 1994 he received a Distinguished Service Award from Queen’s University for outstanding service to the university in his law enforcement role.  In retirement he continued to contribute to numerous community activities and accepted two six-year terms as a provincial appointee to the Kingston Police Services Board, in July 2002 and July 2011.

After Chief Hackett’s retirement, William J. Closs was appointed Chief of the Kingston Police in August 1995.  He began his policing career with the Ontario Provincial Police in 1966 and ultimately achieved the rank of chief superintendent with that force.  He was honoured in 2007 with his investiture by the Governor General of Canada as an Officer of the Order of Merit of Police Forces for his incessant pursuit of policing excellence and accountability and for having the courage to lead by example in practising the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.  By the time of the conclusion of his tenure as Chief of Police, Chief Closs had devoted over 40 years of his life to policing.

On November 1, 2008, Chief Stephen J. Tanner became Kingston’s 15th Chief of Police.  He entered the policing profession as a member of the Halton Regional Police Service in the fall of 1982.  In 1998 he accepted the position of Deputy Chief of Operations with the Guelph Police Service, a position he held until relocating to Belleville, where he served first as the Deputy Chief in 2000 and then as Chief of Police in January 2002.  He served as the 2012/13 President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and left the Kingston Police to accept an appointment as Chief of Police for the Halton Regional Police Service on September 1, 2012.

Chief Gilles M. Larochelle was appointed Chief of Police on June 17, 2013.  He began his policing career in May 1981 with the Ottawa Police Service and prior to his appointment as Kingston’s 16th Chief of Police had been part of the senior command structure of the Ottawa Police Service for over a decade, serving as an inspector, superintendent, and deputy chief in various assignments, including front-line command, investigation, community engagement, tactical operations, and media relations.

As a testament to the significant history of the Kingston Police, in 2016 a tipstaff was manufactured by Guthrie Woods Products Ltd.  At one end of the tipstaff is a Martello tower reproduction in bronze; at the other is a two-tiered hexagon containing engraved images of current and past crests/badges and police facilities.  Inside the tipstaff is an image of the original Kingston Common Council Act of December 20, 1841, imprinted on parchment, as well as a parchment containing the names and tenure of all chiefs of police (with reproductions of their signatures up to 2012).  Formally signed by Chief Gilles M. Larochelle during a meeting of the Kingston Police Services Board on December 15, 2016, this parchment will be signed by incoming chiefs of police during their swearing-in ceremony.  Adopted by the Kingston Police Services Board during the same meeting, the tipstaff will remain a symbol of the transfer of leadership to incoming chiefs of police.