Probus welcomes Police Chief as guest speaker

Saugeen Shores Men’s Probus Club continues to offer, not only a social time for like-minded retired men, but also a chance to hear guest speakers who are well-versed in their various fields of expertise.

On Tuesday, February 5th, the group was fortunate to be able to hear Saugeen Shores Police Chief, Mike Bellai, as he heads into his second year heading up the local service.

Bellai told the group how, as a young man, he came to enter police services and how he moved up ‘through the ranks’ working in different services including Peel Regional and Stratford before coming to Saugeen Shores.

Throughout his career, Bellai has worked in the many areas of police work, including Uniform Patrol, Emergency Response Unit Officer & Supervisor, Criminal Intelligence, Drug Enforcement, Sgt. in Charge of the Drug/Intelligence Unit, Deputy Chief and Chief.

Always a “big believer in education”, Bellai has a Diploma from Conestoga College in Law and Security Administration, a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph in Justice Studies and a Police Administration Certificate from Dalhousie University among others.

In addition, he is a graduate of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy (FBINA).  Only six Canadian officers are selected each year for the FBINA training at the headquarters in Virginia.  “It’s very in-depth,” says Bellai.  “There were many interviews and physical testings to go through.  There are 230 entrants overall with only 26 from other countries and it really is an International program.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Bellai was selected as Saugeen Shores Police Chief in 2017 from more than 30 applicants who applied for the position.

“The officers in Saugeen Shores are super dedicated, all get along and all work toward the same goal.  It’s a real team effort that doesn’t often happen in other services,” said Bellai.  “They are also very involved in the community.  I knew I wanted to make some changes and the service was open to change and has embraced it.”

He pointed out that the officers have a real commitment to the community and take part in Food Drives for the food bank and, this year, held the first Christmas toy drive.

When asked about the new Police Station that is currently under construction, Bellai that this new building will meet future needs.  “The design is such that it can be added on to in the future so that it will be sustainable.”

The Police Services is also moving toward trucks as vehicles.  “It only makes sense in this region where we have winter conditions and rural roads to use trucks.  The new truck, that most have now seen, has a design that our patrol officers came up as I want our people to have the opportunity to be involved in decision-making.  We will also soon be getting another that is equipped with the new Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) system.”

Future Direction of the Service:

Bellai said that the direction of the Service is to begin and sustain relationships in the schools and the community.  “We have high-school Resource Officers who will work with the students to build those relationships and will be starting the new K.I.D.S. program, formerly the DARE program, for Grade 5 students. 

He also said the Drug Unit has seen an increase in personnel.  “We are being more proactive in an attempt to suppress drugs and it’s not just about arrests and charges, it is also about education and creating awareness.  Bellai is well-versed in drug enforcement having work for several years as an ‘undercover’ operative in urban centres.

“We are also focusing on Officer Wellness,” said Bellai.  “There was a time when police and emergency personnel didn’t express their concerns over mental health as it would have been viewed as weakness.  Thankfully, that has changed today.  In public service, officers see a lot of situations that can cause PTSD and it’s important to have the right tools to deal with it.”

Saugeen Shores has a complement of 22 police officers, eight Auxiliary, eight jail guards (part-time), four Special Constables (part-time) and one full-time Special Constable.

“I am also announcing the return of the Canine Unit.  The Police Services Board has approved it and it is important in our proactive approach to drug enforcement through detection.  It is more than that however.  It also about things like tracking those people who, due to medical reasons, may wander and it’s also important in school presentations as dogs do so much.  There are several officers who are interested in being a trainer.”

With the region being a tourist destination resulting in a population explosion in the summer months, speeding and distracted driving are the two main causes of accidents and death on the roads.  “All our officers are also Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) qualified and we have drug recognition expert on staff who is highly qualified.  We also have a shared service agreement with our municipal neighbour services in Owen Sound, West Grey and Hanover.”

“The next five years will be challenge for the entire community and the Police Service, given the rapid growth we are seeing,” said Bellai.  “It’s going to be a very … interesting time.”

Probus is always looking for new members.  Meetings are held once a month and are simply a social time for like-minded people to get together and listen to a guest speaker.  To learn more, contact John Conlin at conlin1984@gmail.com for membership or Brian French to learn about member services at frenchb61@gmail.com .