OPP to rein in colourful Sgt. Woolley

It appears OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino has no sense of humour. According to reports in Toronto-area media this morning, Fantino is reigning in the affable Sgt. Cam Woolley –the longstanding face of the OPP in the media and a frequent source in Truck News articles.
In a letter to citizens, Fantino said the OPP is taking a new approach to enforcing highway safety: “No more long weekend blitzes, no flavour-of-the-day enforcement, no more humorous stories about those who compromise public safety. Rather, every day, 24-7, OPP officers will be deployed in an all-out effort to put an end to the senseless carnage.”
I, for one, will miss Woolley’s colourful anecdotes from the road. I would tune into local TV reports following each long weekend enforcement blitz, anxious to hear about the guy that was pulled over for shaving while talking on his cell phone and eating a bowl of cereal all while travelling 180 km/h on the 401. I know I’m not the only one who enjoyed this guilty pleasure.
Fantino said the change in direction doesn’t specifically target Woolley (who will now spend more time enforcing the laws and less time talking to the media). However, I think Fantino’s no-nonsense approach will backfire for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Woolley’s amusing reports on safety blitzes brought the issue of highway safety to the forefront. People who otherwise would have little interest in reading a newspaper article citing statistics about the latest enforcement blitz would tune in to hear Woolley talk about the worst of the worst offenders. His entertaining first-hand reports helped spread the message of road safety to a wider audience.
Secondly, trying to get a straightforward response from the police on any issue can be a daunting task. I know this from my experience as a newspaper reporter and also working for Truck News. Woolley, however, could always be depended on for a BS-free response and he’s one of the few law enforcement officers who always promptly returns phone calls to the media.
Finally, what’s wrong with having a quasi-celebrity of sorts out there representing the OPP? Police officers in general are too often perceived as the ‘bad guys.’ Woolley is instantly recognizable in Ontario and love him or hate him, he puts a face to the OPP. Having dealt with Sgt. Woolley personally, I have gained a better appreciation for the work he and his fellow officers do on a daily basis.
For those of you who enjoyed Sgt. Woolley’s reports, here is a small sampling of some of his memorable comments, courtesy of the Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/Article/172790. Enjoy them while you can because it appears we’re headed back to the same ol’ boring police rhetoric most other jurisdictions are accustomed to.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • You’re so polite when it comes to Fantino. I think he’s a little jealous of Cam. Fantino WAS Toronto’s baby (I know I didn’t want him to step down as Police Chief). You could say he was the face of the Toronto Police Force, our hero. Fantino is quite comfortable being in the media spotlight. I don’t care what he says about all OPP officers going all out on crime. They always have, it’s nothing new. The only thing that’s different?? SGT Cam Woolley, the (preferred) face of the OPP, has been replaced by Fantino (watched him on Global tonight, and that won’t happen again). Whether Fantino likes it or not, pulling Cam is going to anger some people and, like you, I believe it’s a big mistake. I loved watching Cam, and I’ll miss his no nonsense approach to policing. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday Cam is sitting in Chief Fantino’s chair.
    Thank you for your article.

  • Woolley has long been the face of reason n the OPP. Fantino is a publicity seeking nutter. Remember when Fantino was offered a bribe to overlook a brothel in Chinatown?
    OPP cops are reasonable. I have spent too many decades driving the roads of Ontario, for business, and was subjet to many ‘routine checks’.
    On one occasion I was really hitting the limit, plus several miles over the top, on the then new Sudbury – Gogama – Timmins road. As approached the Gogama town, a railway crew change point my roof mounted radar trap detector chirped slightly.
    As I rounded a bend, rapidly decreasing speed I passed an OPP guy who had stopped another vehicle. II maintained the limit speed after that and, sure enough, the OPP guy was hammering up behind me.
    He pulled me over and he said: “I know you aren’t speeding now, but you were when you passed me.” He then said: “Be honest, am not going to ticket you, but write on a piece of paper the speed at which you passed me. I will tell you roughly how fast you were going.”
    I wrote down 66-68. He then said that, in his estimation I was going about 66 MPH. He looked at the paper and smiled. He kept his word – no ticket – but he said we are not fools, you know.
    The OPP gained a little ore respect from me, that day.
    I travelled on to Timmins and as I was passing through, an OPP car gave me a little buzz on his horn and I pulled over, The cop, a totally different one, said to me he was happy to see that I drove the limit from Gogama!
    When I travelled between Kapuskasing and Geraldton, in Northern Ontario, in inclement weather, I always used to check in with the OPP in case went missing. I always checked in, but before departing I would have a leisurely coffee to make my trip seem longer, to the OPP.