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Chief (Ret.) Armand P. La Barge O.O.M.

2011 Richmond Hill

Chief Armand La Barge has a passion for people. He is a thirty-seven year veteran of York Regional Police, and was Chief of Police for the last eight years of his career. It is remarkable that, rather than being jaded by the often disturbing experiences of police work, the Chief’s fondness for people, their cultures and faiths, has flourished over the time he has served his community.

On October 9, 1973, nineteen year old Cadet La Barge walked through the doors of the old 19 Division in Newmarket. What was he thinking at that moment? “Boy, I don’t know what I’m getting myself into.” Born in Suphide, and raised in Tweed, Armand La Barge was a country boy. 1973 Newmarket was a busy city of 25-30 thousand people, with lots of traffic and activity. Pushing his doubts aside, the new cadet threw himself into his duties on the front desk. During an audit some time later, 19 Division discovered that Armand could type and he became the first cadet to work in the Record and Inquiries Bureau. Since all reports and incidents go through this department, the young cadet was exposed to the inner workings of the police force. A hardworking, dedicated man who embraced new technology, Armand quickly moved up the ranks until he became ‘The Chief’ on December 12th, 2002.

Throughout his policing career, Armand has sought to understand people. In fact, his university education began a love affair that continues to enrich lives today. “When I took multiculturalism in policing I fell in love with learning about different faiths and cultures.” His credentials clearly illustrate his deep interest in humans: Bachelor of Arts Honours degree and Multiculturalism Studies certificate from York University, and a Masters Degree from Trent University in Canadian and Native Studies.[1] He also holds an Honourary Bachelor of Applied Studies from Seneca College.

When Armand La Barge became Chief of Police he wore his uniform every day for eight years. Other Chiefs of Police typically dressed in civilian clothing. The Chief’s practice made it fashionable for other Chiefs to wear their uniforms again. However, his goal was not to make a fashion statement, but to break down barriers between police and the community. Chief La Barge wanted people to see “the man in the uniform.” As he attended events, got to know the leaders of various cultures, and involved members of York Regional Police in charity events, community perspective began to shift. In a tribute to the Chief at his retirement, a member of the Jewish community said: “Thank you Chief La Barge for the trail you have forged; for your passion and your commitment to policing and to community, and for the respect you have shown through words and deeds to the people you serve, and to the people you lead.”[2]

The Chief enjoys sharing poignant stories that have deepened his compassion for others. Like the time he and his friend Max Eisen were at Birkenau concentration camp. They stood in a large field dotted with dilapidated huts with stone chimneys, the former prisoner buildings. Max was sharing experiences of his early teenage years spent there. As they looked across the field a flag appeared in the distance. As it got closer they recognized the flag of Israel, carried by Israeli soldiers. The soldiers surrounded Max and he began to tell them about his life. As they spontaneously broke into the Hatikvah the Israeli National Anthem, Chief La Barge thought how surreal the situation was. His Blackberry went off and Irony set in. It was an email telling him a hate crime had been perpetrated in York Region. Someone had painted a swastika on the side of a Jewish building.

During his tenure as Chief of Police, Armand La Barge has sought to make all communities within York Region feel safe and welcomed. He has been in the homes of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, and he calls them his “good friends.” He’s had recruiting drives to reach out to ethnic communities, and diversity within police services has quadrupled in 10 years.

However, the Chief’s deeds extend well beyond the borders of Canada. He is founder and past chair of Adopt a Mission Jamaica Committee, and has traveled to Jamaica with York Region officers to volunteer in inner city missions. He’s a supporter of Jamaican Canadian Association fundraising events, and awards scholarships to students of Jamaican heritage.[3] It is a sore point with the Chief that the media does not show up for these events. Whenever there is a ceremony to award scholarships to these young Jamaican Canadians, the Chief asks, “Where’s the media?” While negative incidents are freely reported, these successes go without recognition.

In the Chief’s words, “there’s a lot more work to do.” In the meantime, the former Chief of Police is currently completing his Ph.D. in Aboriginal Studies. He also plans to spend time with First Nations police learning about their approaches to community justice. “I have a passion for aboriginal issues, and want to focus on First Nations policing. I spent time in Moose Factory and on Georgina Island; there are a lot of positive things happening there that mainstream policing can benefit from. I want to spend time researching that, and to assist policing on that level.”

Armand La Barge’s deeds have spoken loudly. His accomplishments are too vast for this small space, and he attributes his success to the support of his wife of twenty-seven years, former Detective Sergeant Denise La Barge. “Whatever plaques I have received should read ‘Armand and Denise La Barge,’ because we did this together.”

* Bio written by Heather Anne Lambert,


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