Mémphramagog Police shoulder flashAs the cheers still resound outside my apartment, from the street party below, let me report on my own Olympic sport: police-spotting. It’s like bird watching, but for police agencies.

Some 118 different police agencies from across Canada came to the Vancouver area as part of the $900 million 2010 Olympics security effort.  The RCMP sent over 4000 officers from provinces across Canada; various municipal police departments sent some 1700 more.  (20% of Canada’s policing power was at the Olympics.) I figured it would be fun to say hello to a constable from every one of those agencies. I didn’t get to them all, but it was fun trying.

An unexpected side benefit was that some constables unexpectedly offered me one of their shoulder flashes — the cloth badges sewn on uniform shirts and jackets.  Apparently there is an active barter economy of shoulder flashes within law enforcement. A web search for “shoulder flash” gets a lot of hits from Canadian police department web sites setting out their terms of trade: “I’ll give you one of mine if you give me one of yours”, “I’ll send you one for two bucks”, etc. These officers came prepared.  I’ve posted scans of the shoulder flashes I received.

I played on a team with my spouse, Ducky Sherwood. Or rather, I’m taking credit for all her sightings.

The rule was: If we saw and spoke to an uniformed officer and identified their department, we added that agency to our list. We made a special rule for the RCMP: each province’s RCMP counted as a separate agency. It was a compromise between counting the RCMP only once, which didn’t do justice to their ubiquity, and trying to understand the RCMP’s local hierarchy of detachments. I only counted police. All the firefighters and paramedics I encountered were local, and so no fun. I would have loved to count some of the Canadian Forces involved, but I didn’t run into any of them.

So, here are the Sherwood-DeLaHunt team results:

British Columbia

Note: I decided that I wouldn’t get points for agencies on their home turf.  This eliminated the Vancouver Police Department. The home team did almost all the policing outside the Olympic venues. Honourable mention to the Vancouver Traffic Authority, a branch of VPD which had a lot of traffic to direct in downtown Vancouver. It also eliminated the British Columbia RCMP. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) serves as BC’s provincial police force, so they have jurisdiction everywhere except in cities with their own police force.  I also didn’t count the  Transit Police I met on Skytrain. I almost counted the Delta Police who searched my airplane at Boundary Bay Airport, until I remembered that the airport is actually in Delta.

  • British Columbia Sheriff: one of my first catches. I had seen the occasional B.C. Sheriff car around, but I didn’t really understand who they are until I got a chance to talk to one of their constables. When the five-ring circus isn’t in town, they guard prisons and do prisoner transport. Although the B.C. Sheriff constables are sworn police officers in a provincial police department, they aren’t the “B.C. Provincial Police”. Patrolling and crime investigation in B.C. belong to the RCMP.
  • New Westminster Police: I guess the local towns had to chip in a few people for Olympic venues.
  • Saanich Police: from the municipality of Saanich, just to the north of Victoria, on Vancouver Island.
  • Central Saanich Police: from the Saanich Peninsula, between Victoria and Sydney, on Vancouver Island. Not to be confused with the Municipality of Saanich.
  • North Vancouver Police: fairly local, being just on the far side of the Burrard Inlet and part of Metro Vancouver. But they were just out of their jurisdiction, so they counted.
  • Squamish Nation Peace Keepers stickerSquamish Nation Peace Keepers: their constable was a charming elder fellow at the Four Host First Nations pavilion. Peace Keepers are an intermediate level between private security and police, he explained. He had a sticker to give us, which was enough to make his agency count.


  • Alberta RCMP: A lot of these folks about, since it was a relatively short commute for them.
  • Edmonton Police shoulder flashEdmonton Police: They were nice enough to give me a shoulder flash.
  • Calgary Police: One of the first agencies I collected. Their uniforms had a red band around the cap, and a red stripe down the trousers, which made them easy to pick out from the RCMP.
  • Lacombe Police: Lacombe is a town in northern Alberta, and big enough to have someone tapped for Olympics duty.


  • Saskatchewan RCMP: interestingly, I didn’t run into these folks at the Saskatchewan pavilion.
  • Saskatoon Police
  • Prince Albert Police: Prince Albert is a town of 40,000 in central Saskatchewan. Not a huge city, but big enough to be the third largest in Saskatchewan, and to be tapped for Olympics duty.


  • Manitoba RCMP: a few of the RCMP constables we met were from Manitoba.
  • Winnipeg Police: We didn’t meet anyone from Winnipeg’s police department for nearly two weeks, but then we found one of their constables on duty at the curling arena.


  • Ontario RCMP: No surprise here; the most populous province supplied a lot of constables to RCMP’s contingent.
  • Ontario Provincial Police: Unlike B.C., Ontario controls its own provincial policing. The hats of O.P.P. members have a distinctive blue-green band; I didn’t see any other agency with this colour.
  • Niagra Parks Police shoulder flashNiagra Parks Police: we were able to meet the entire Olympics detachment of the Niagra Parks Police. He was very nice, and gave us a shoulder flash.
  • Toronto Police: of course the largest city in Canada would supply members of the Olympics force. Surprisingly, it took us a while to meet one of them.
  • Chatham-Kent Police Service: from, wait for it, Chatham ON and surrounding areas.
  • U.C.C.M. Anishnaabe Police Service: from the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin, six First Nation communities on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. They didn’t have a shoulder flash, but they did give us a pen.
  • Ottawa Police: they were well-represented among the constables we spoke to, almost surprisingly so.
  • York Regional Police: from a region of southern Ontario including Vaughan and Markham.
  • Durham Regional Police: from another part of southern Ontario around Oshawa.
  • London Police: that’s London Ontario, not UK!  Partial credit, because we saw a constable but didn’t talk to her.


  • Québec RCMP: it was very common to find RCMP members from Québec.
  • La Sûrété du Québec:  the provincial police force of Québec. They were easy to spot, because where almost all other police had navy blue uniforms, la Sûrété had olive green, almost military looking uniforms.
  • Mémphramagog Police shoulder flashMemphrémagog Police: Probably my favourite find of the whole game. I’d never heard of this place, but it’s a small town in Northern Québec. And this constable was the first to give us a shoulder flash.
  • Police de la Ville de Québec: the municipal police force, as opposed to the provincial police force, la Sûrété.
  • Trois-Rivières Police: How cute! the website of la ville de Trois-Rivières is http://www.v3r.net.
  • Montréal Police shoulder flashMontréal Police: they gave us one of their flashes.  The city’s logo reminded us of a delightful visit to Montréal in fall 2009.

Atlantic provinces

  • Nova Scotia RCMP: on the night of the opening ceremonies, I hailed a police boat in False Creek outside BC Place. They yelled back they were RCMP from Nova Scotia.
  • I didn’t meet anyone from Newfoundland, but the Nova Scotia RCMP boat said that the next boat down False Creek was from Newfoundland.
  • I heard rumours of RCMP from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, but I never actually met anyone.


It would have been terribly cool to meet some police from the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, or Nunavut. Sadly for me, the consensus was that no-one was sent down from the Territories. It was a long way to travel, especially in winter; and apparently the forces are thin on the ground up there in the best of times.

… for a total of 32 or so points. If you want to be strict, we got the RCMP, three provincial police forces, and 23 other police agencies. It’s fair to say we met constables from nearly a quarter of the sworn police agencies participating in the 2010 Olympics security. It was interesting to have the size of the police force, and the degree to which it was a national effort, demonstrated so vividly.

My thanks to all the constables who took our somewhat off-the-wall greetings and questions with good humour and patience.  Almost all of them were wonderful to talk with, as soon as they realised we didn’t intend to be obnoxious.

P.S. I don’t want to start a collection of police shoulder flashes.  Where should I donate the ones I received? Please suggest worthy recipients in the comments.

[Updated to add images of shoulder flashes, and set categories.]