By Darren Lum
May 10 2016
Even with the countless miles of travel he does for his police work with the Ontario Provincial Police Haliburton’s Rick Barnum has never forgotten where he comes from.
Without saying it directly he describes growing up on Head Lake as paradise. It’s inconceivable to him why children and youth that live in Haliburton would ever say they are bored when there is so much to offer.
“You skied snowmobiled and played hockey boy scouts worked and school teams and everything. You’re just constantly busy. It was an amazing place to grow up” he said. “I remember [beingclose to 10 years old] we used to go up to the liquor store parking lot as kids … and have huge road hockey games. Kids from all over town would come in on Sunday. We would sort of start informally. There would be nothing planned out and then it would start at 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning and a road hockey game would go until 3 p.m.”
He said it’s the same parking lot that is there now and it sure seemed bigger then. No one would come home unless they needed stitches or broke a bone.
Barnum an accomplished officer with 28 years of experience in the OPP working in communications technology drugs and organized crime has recently been promoted to deputy commissioner for investigations and organized crime from his position as the chief superintendent of organized crime enforcement.
He finds reward in being able to work with great people who inspire and motivate him towards the aim of bettering communities and the province. Officially he started at his new position on April 15 and said it is hard to believe he said.
“It’s a huge privilege to be able to sit in this chair. I pinch myself some days. I can’t believe that this has actually happened. It’s so rewarding working with our people and working with our communities” he said.
He’s mainly responsible for overseeing the provincial anti-terrorism organized crime major crimes (fraud homicide thefts arsons and assaults) and international investigations. He has close to 1500 detectives under his command to co-ordinate. One of the crimes he detests and wants to stamp out is human trafficking.
The difference from his last position in his daily work will focused on dealing with organizations at the senior levels outside of the OPP.
Being a “hands-on guy” he’ll miss the direct interactions he had earlier and the first-hand knowledge he had of the organized crime groups and what they were doing.
“Now I can have real impact on the strategies and where we’re going to go. My No. 1 concern right now is the mental health of our people in our organization specifically on this side of the OPP the investigation side” he said. “You work a homicide file for two or three years you talk to the victim’s family every day for two years you become a part of that family. The pressure on our people is immense” he said.
He hopes to provide greater support for his members who he said sometimes need the help.
Having experience “in uniform” and as an undercover police operative for five years he understands and can empathize with what can stay with an officer.
This kind of understanding gives him credibility with his people.
After graduating from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School in 1984 he attended and graduated from Canadore College for radio and TV broadcasting. He then worked in public relations and sales for Chum broadcasting which at the time included television and radio stations including two radio stations in Peterborough where he worked. In 1988 he started with the OPP interested in a career with variety.
He started “in uniform” working as a constable for five years in Sharbot Lake located east of Haliburton in Central Frontenac. His job has had him posted all over Ontario which includes Kingston Ottawa Windsor Kenora and Barrie. He now works out of the general headquarters in Orillia.
Before his promotion the most recent example of work he was involved with that grabbed headlines was related to the $12.2 million of cocaine that was seized in a Canada wide police investigation called operation Monto.
He was the commander of the organized crime bureau of the co-ordinated effort between the OPP the GTA police forces the RCMP Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Homeland Security.
The OPP he said has evolved to not just deal with provincial law enforcement issues.
“So much of our work is international based. It’s really interesting how when I started 28 years ago it was small Ontario even though it’s huge … last week I was just down with the [American federal law agency that polices drugs] DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) for three days in meetings with the head of the DEA on drug issues in Ontario United States and Canada. Next week I’m in Scotland for a few days on counter-terrorism work that we’re doing. It’s just all over the place. People think we’re just little ol’ Canada here and we go about our merry way. The reality is the province of Ontario is a busy place. You know there is lots going on in all regards” he said.
Although he isn’t a fan of winter which may factor in living in Haliburton for retirement he loves his visits to his cottage on Redstone Lake and with friends that live here in a place he knows well.
“I could close my eyes and wake up and if I was going through Haliburton somewhere I would know it” he said. “The landscape is different. The trees are different. The rocks are different. The water … it’s just it’s just Haliburton. I take every advantage I can to get up there.”