Dedication and Teamwork: Working Behind the Scenes at the OPP

An interview with Jackie Reilly, Acting Deputy Director, OPP Fleet, Supply and Weapon Services Bureau

The Fleet, Supply and Weapon Services Bureau employs approximately 140 people who work behind the scenes to manage all the Ontario Provincial Police vehicles, uniforms, weapons, and general equipment. Throughout the pandemic, these employees have reported to their workplace every day to ensure that the OPP officers can provide care for their community with up-to-date equipment and uniforms.

Essential Work During a Pandemic

Jackie Reilly, Acting Deputy Director at the Fleet, Supply and Weapon Services Bureau for the Ontario Provincial Police, could not be more proud of the work her team has done. “These folks, they are all civilians, and they have worked throughout COVID-19, because it’s not possible for them to work from home. They can’t take vehicles home, they can’t take guns home, they can’t take the uniforms home. And we have 6,500 uniform personnel that require these services because they are still out there every day protecting the people of Ontario.” she continues, “I always like to think that because we’re such a critical component and we touch every single person in the OPP.”

The bureau employs forty mechanics who build police cars and specialty vehicles such as motorcycles, boats and ATVS. As these essential operations run 24 hours 7 days a week, the bureau had to develop strict safety protocols to keep them running. “We did social distancing, masks and sanitizing, all that kind of stuff. We adjusted shifts, or people accommodated so that we didn’t have a mass of people coming into the garage at one time. Everything was wiped down.” shares Reilly.

Along with caring for vehicles, the bureau must ensure that officers have their uniforms, and with recently hiring their largest number of recruit classes ever – 145 recruits – it’s not exactly a straightforward task, especially during the era of social distancing. The uniform that is made for the officers of the OPP are unique in that most articles of clothing are designed to fit the recruit according to their exact measurements. Reilly shares, “It’s completely different to how a pair of jeans fit or a pair of sneakers. We also have peaked caps, who’s ever worn a peaked cap except for the military?”

Implementing New Realities

To assist with this process during the pandemic, the bureau has implemented a ‘virtual reality’ where recruits complete a measurement form that includes pictures and diagram of how to measure for their clothing and equipment. “It wasn’t a question of just saying ‘I’m a small, medium, or large’ you know, it’s 14 1/2 inches or 15 1/2 inches for a shirt collar.” Reilly continues, “We then would pre-select all equipment and then we would take it to the college, let the recruit try everything on, and then exchange what didn’t fit within 24 hours. We had to develop this virtual process because it just wasn’t feasible to have 145 people in an enclosed environment.”

Despite the effectiveness of the new virtual process, Jackie and her team look forward to greeting new recruits personally again once the pandemic is over. “It would be nice to get back to that, but we have found other ways of managing our business because we’ve had to continue on providing our members with what they need.” says Reilly.

Not only was their bureau able to adjust quickly to help their sector, but they moved quickly to provide other government agencies and First Nation communities across Ontario with protective personal equipment when all suppliers had initially shut down. “In these remote areas it was just impossible for them to get that type of equipment, so we assisted by putting the equipment on trucks, and we have some delivered by helicopter, we had some on the OPP plane that was transported from Orillia to Thunder Bay and then from Thunder Bay out to these remote First Nation communities, so we were able to help a lot of people that weren’t even related to the OPP.” Reilly elaborates.

Employees working on OPP vehicles.

Supporting One Another

Throughout these unsettling times and all the hard work being put in by the bureau, the OPP has ensured that their employees have access to a network of caregivers and support personnel. “I think everybody in one way or another as a struggled with some form of mental health so we have this incredible mental health workplace team that provide support 24 hours a day and everybody knows they can reach out.” Alongside this, the OPP also has an internal COVID-19 website for all employees to have access to information quickly and easily.

Although social distancing guidelines have been implemented, Jackie and her team feel closer than ever working through this pandemic together. “I think as a team it’s brought us all closer together because we’ve been in our own bubble kind of thing. We are a team, and we are very proud to be essential workers.”

Throughout our time speaking together, the immense admiration and care for her team and the work they do, shines through everything Jackie has to say. “It’s not just me, it’s me and my team and they are just incredible. They’ve gotten through this pandemic and are coming into work. We talk about the people in the stores, and the drive-through people and you know, I’ve got this group of incredible people that have been coming to work every day as well in order for our police officers to continue doing what they do.”

Inside the OPP headquarters.

Tell us your story

As the pandemic rages on, our members have been asked to redefine their roles and adjust quickly and seamlessly to a situation that is constantly changing.

At QCC we believe your stories are worth telling and want to hear from you. Send us an email on communications@ontario25.ca

Read more stories about public service during times of a pandemic here