The OPP is the largest deployed police force in Ontario and the second largest in Canada. The service is responsible for providing policing services throughout the province in areas lacking local police forces. It also provides specialized support to smaller municipal police forces, investigates provincewide and cross-jurisdictional crimes, patrols provincial highways (including Ontario's 400-Series Highways) and is responsible for many of the waterways in the province. The OPP also works with other provincial agencies, including the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Natural Resources to enforce highway safety and conservation regulations, respectively. Finally, OPP officers provide security at the Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto.
At the First Parliament of Upper Canada on September 17, 1792, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, provision was made for the formation of a 'police system'. Initially, policing jurisdictions were limited to districts, townships, and parishes. In 1871, four years after Confederation, the Constables' Act extended jurisdiction and gave designated police members authorization to act throughout the province. The first salaried Provincial Constable appointed to act as Detective for the Government of Ontario was John Wilson Murray (1840-1906), hired in 1875. Murray was joined by two additional detectives in 1897, marking the beginnings of the Criminal Investigation Branch. However, for the most part, policing outside of Ontario's cities was non-existent.
With the discovery of silver in Cobalt and gold in Timmins, lawlessness was increasingly becoming a problem in northern Ontario. Police constables were gradually introduced in various areas, until an Order-In-Council decreed the establishment of a permanent organization of salaried constables designated as The Ontario Provincial Police on October 13, 1909. It consisted of 45 men under the direction of Superintendent Joseph E. Rogers. The starting salary for constables was $400.00 per annum, increased to $900.00 in 1912. The first O.P.P. detachment was located in Bala, Ontario.
In 1921, restructuring was undertaken with the passing of the Provincial Police Force Act. The title of the commanding officer was changed to Commissioner and given responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Ontario Temperance Act and other liquor regulations. Major-General Henry M. Cawthra-Elliot was appointed as the first Commissioner. Julian Fantino, the current O.P.P. Commissioner, took office in October 2006, succeeding Gwen M. Boniface.
The O.P.P.'s first line of duty death occurred in 1923 when escaped convict Leo Rogers shot and killed Sergeant John Urquhart near North Bay. Rogers, who was later killed in a shootout with O.P.P. officers, had already mortally wounded North Bay City Constable Fred Lefebvre.
The first O.P.P. motorcycle patrol was introduced in 1928, phased out in 1942 and then reintroduced in 1949. The first marked O.P.P. patrol car was introduced in 1941.
During World War II, the Veterans Guard was formed. This was a body of volunteers (primarily World War I veterans), under the supervision of regular police members, protected vulnerable hydroelectric plants and the Welland Ship Canal.
Volunteers continue to serve with the O.P.P. Auxiliary, which was originally formed in 1960 by an Order-in-Council when the program absorbed the Emergency Measures Organization who were trained in crowd control and first aid. It is recognized that O.P.P. auxiliary constables shall not be utilized to replace regular members in any duties. The Ontario Police Services Act does, however, provide for instances when the Auxiliary Member may have the authority of a Police Officer. This can occur in an emergency situation where the O.P.P. requires additional strength to cope with a special occasion or event.
Women joined the uniform ranks in 1974.
In 1985, the O.P.P. uniform was made more distinctive with the introduction of a blue trouser stripe to match a blue peak cap band.
In 1995, General Headquarters moved into its new facility in Orillia and for the first time in the history of the organization, all Bureaus were in one building.
The Ontario Provincial Police is responsible for providing policing services over one million square kilometres of land and 174 000 km² of water to a population of 2.3 million people (3.6 million in the summer months). Currently, the O.P.P. has over 5,400 uniformed, 900 auxiliary and 2,000 civilian personnel. The vehicle fleet consists of 2,290 vehicles, 114 marine vessels, 286 snow and all-terrain vehicles, 2 helicopters and 2 fixed-wing aircraft.
The province is divided into six operational regions:
Field and operational services are provided from 163 police stations and satellite locations throughout Ontario. OPP stations are called "detachments."
The OPP General Headquarters are located in Orillia. Until 1995, the administration and headquarters divisions operated out of a number of buildings in Toronto. From 1973 to 1995 the headquarters were based out of the old Workmen's Compensation Board Building at 90 Harbour Street. Operations were moved to Orillia as part of a government move to decentralize ministries and operations to other parts of Ontario.
The actions of the OPP are examined by the Special Investigations Unit, a civilian agency responsible for investigating circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in a death, serious injury, or allegations of sexual assault.
In 2007, the OPP announced that it would return to a black-and-white colour scheme for its police cruisers. Historically, the force had used black-and-white vehicles from the introduction of the first marked police cars in 1941 to 1989 when all-white cars with blue and gold striping were introduced. The change will be implemented starting in March 2007 and should be complete by 2009. Cars will not be repainted, but new vehicles purchased will have the new colour scheme.
The OPP has approximately 1,200 patrol cars in service throughout the province. Common models include the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Chevrolet Impala and Dodge Charger. Various vans and SUVs are used as support vehicles. Harley Davidson FL motorcycles are used for traffic patrol in the summer months. Other vehicles and equipment include:
The implementation of the SAVE Units has brought ATV's into the forefront of proactive policing of recreational activities.
The Beatles's 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band contains cover art with Paul McCartney wearing an OPP patch on his fictional uniform (more easily seen in the gatefold picture). The patch was given to John Lennon the day after their 1966 concert in Toronto by a summer student working in the garage of the OPP Headquarters. The group was being transferred to a police van for the trip to the airport.
Many "Paul Is Dead" enthusiasts have misread the patch as "OPD" (the way the patch was slightly bent on McCartney's sleeve in the gatefold picture, the bottom of the "P" was not visible) and took it to mean "Officially Pronounced Dead."
On the online social networking website Habbo Hotel Canada, O.P.P. officers and spokespersons visit the online application to talk to teens in onboard the website's 'Infobus.' During the weekly sessions, users of the Habbo service are able to ask the officers and spokespersons questions, primarily regarding online safety. During the Infobus sessions, the O.P.P. officer talks to the users within the bus about cyberbullying and online safety. The O.P.P. officer holding the session users staff specific tools to ask questions to the whole bus so a more direct answer can be given. This is by using the quiz tool in which users must vote on a multiple choice question which appears in an in-game popup. The O.P.P. officers Habbo account is also given moderation powers to control the bus behaviour. The O.P.P. officer ingame account is given the CAA badge. (CAA relates to the badge code used when uploading into the badge directory for the Hotels. The "CA" section of the badge relates to the Hotel and the "A" relates to it being the tenth badge to have been uploaded with the "CA" prefix.) This allows users to recognise them whilst in the game and itis this badge that gives them the housekeeping powers needed to run the Quiz Tool.