Ontario Court Justice Julia Morneau and newly sworn-in Owen Sound Police Chief Craig Ambrose shake hands after presiding over the swearing-in ceremony at the Best Western Inn on the Bay on Friday, February 22, 2019 in Owen Sound, Ont. Scott Dunn/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Owen Sound’s new chief of police was sworn in Friday during a ceremony in which he presented himself humbly and with gratitude and humour.Craig Ambrose told the packed meeting room at the Best Western Inn on the Bay how proud he was to become police chief and that he “never dreamed” of doing so.“I always said I never wanted to get promoted past sergeant,” he said.But now he knows he’s in a new position which will “keep me energized,” he said in prepared remarks, which were sprinkled with humour.He said a friend described the first few weeks in Ambrose’s new job as like “trying to take a drink from a fire hose.”He praised the members of the police service, calling them “amazing people” who go “that extra mile to offer true customer service no matter their role.”He acknowledged his work/life balance was anything but balanced at times in Waterloo.“And sometimes there were gentle reminders and sometimes there were some crushing blows that reminded me . . .” he said, joking his wife, Lisa, who’s originally from Owen Sound, can deliver both, which filled the room with laughter.
Craig S. Ambrose, Owen Sound Police Service’s 16th police chief, enjoys a lighter moment at his swearing-in ceremony at the Best Western Inn on the Bay on Friday, February 22, 2019 in Owen Sound, Ont. Scott Dunn/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Later when asked by reporters what differences he sees between policing issues here and in Waterloo, Ambrose said the issues are similar, citing mental health and drugs, though the number of calls is different.He repeated his praise for that extra bit that members of the city police service do. “I think that’s what sets us apart from the big city and from the bigger services where you’re running call-to-call.”Around the mid-90s, while working in the drug and intelligence branch in Waterloo, he worked a little bit with Owen Sound Insp. Jeff Fluney and Insp. Mike Daze during shared investigations, he noted.Council passed a motion recently to direct Mayor Ian Boddy and staff to initiate discussions with Hanover and West Grey on the idea of creating a regional police force. Ambrose sees “opportunities for cost savings.”“It may just be that it starts out with some joint training,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get that moving forward.”In remarks during the ceremony, Boddy said the police board was confident in its choice to hire Ambrose.“And I was overwhelmed with emails and phone calls I was getting from police officers in this area and different places that know Craig . . . so it really gave me confidence that we made the right choice. We were already pretty confident.”Stephen Beckett, assistant deputy-minister in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, praised former Chief Bill Sornberger, who retired as of Dec. 31 after 42 years in policing. Sornberger attended the swearing-in ceremony.He also observed the number of police officers from the Waterloo Regional Police Service, where Ambrose worked for 29 years, and other services. “In some ways it feels like a reunion.”Ambrose left the Waterloo service as inspector in charge of intelligence services to become Owen Sound’s new chief.Beckett said it’s an “interesting” time to be a police chief and newly introduced legislation, the Community Safety and Policing Act, will present some challenges for chiefs.“So I think it’s very important that our choice of police leaders are looking towards people who are innovative, that have strong ethical leadership, and I think Craig certainly brings this to the position.”Owen Sound police board chair Garth Pierce said the board hired an executive search firm to find the best candidate for chief. It was a national search.Criteria for the search included “a seasoned officer, with extensive experience in all aspects of policing, exemplary leadership skills, stellar references and someone who would fit the culture of the service and of the community.”“Interviews were held with the board, civic leaders, staff and others,” he said. “One candidate stood out from the rest, met, indeed exceeded all of the criteria and was the unanimous choice of the board.”Waterloo Region Deputy Police Chief Kevin Thaler said he learned a lot from Ambrose, “someone everyone recognizes deserves to be held in high regard.”Owen Sound Det.-Const. Brent Down, the vice-president of the Owen Sound Police Association, said “our members deserve a leader who believes in them and creates and environment for them to shine each and every day.”Down quoted Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut on leadership.“Ultimately leadership is not about glorious, crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focussed on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are really high and the consequences really matter.”Down said many of Ambrose’s former colleagues have contacted him and “have praised your character and abilities.” He said the members of the Owen Sound service vow to work hard under Ambrose’ leadership.