After 30 years, Roberto Del Papa hangs up his badge

SPVM 1 community relations officer also served internationally

By Kevin Woodhouse

He spent the last 15 years of his career at Station 1 as community relations officer but last Wednesday was Roberto Del Papa’s last day in uniform. After a successful 30 year career, Del Papa is calling it a day and is retiring to spend more time with his family.

Del Papa began his career as a community relations officer in Little Italy before pounding the old 25 beat that included Crescent Street and the downtown core. In 1990, Del Papa began working at the old Station 12 in Pierrefonds where he and another colleague worked for five years as community police in Cloverdale.

“At the time, the crime rate was at 22 percent and we were sent to work with the community and demystify the role of police,” Del Papa told The Suburban on his last day in uniform.

“We spent a lot of time with people who had moved to Pierrefonds from other countries where relations with police were very different,” said Del Papa. “We organized a lot of events with the community like soccer tournaments and information sessions. We increased our visibility, worked with business and local community groups and crime dropped.”

Del Papa then found himself at Montreal’s Station 1, the largest precinct in the territory that encompasses five municipalities: Senneville, Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Baie d’Urfé, Beaconsfield and Kirkland.

During his 15-year tenure, Del Papa worked closely with the community and the media as well as creating new programs such as My senior, My friend that helped senior citizens avoid being scammed by phone solicitors, Feel Safe that was targeted towards women where more than 2,000 West Island women learned how to protect themselves and their families from break ins.

“The course was designed to give women the necessary tools to protect themselves in a foreign city, how to be safe in your vehicle and avoid crime,” said Del Papa.

Del Papa’s course was so successful it was used by the SQ and RCMP.

The affable police officer also ran the Drinking and Driving Stops Here prior to the Christmas holidays where local reporters took part in a supervised drinking experiment to show how drinking impairs the ability to drive. Sufferers of drinking and driving experiences were on hand to give heartfelt testimonials and Del Papa had even set up some car wrecks from DUI incidents outside of the venue to highlight the point.

Del Papa also helped raise $500,000 over the last 15 years for a number of West Island and Montreal charities like The Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, West Island Community Shares and the Salvation Army. Del Papa went out of his way to fundraise so much because he believed that “if you can, you have to find a way to help non government agencies with minimal budgets improve the quality of life for West Island citizens.”

He also served internationally with the UN as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, 1997, and Haiti in 2003, 2008 and last year. Del Papa admitted that “those missions are the hardest things to do because you are out of your comfort zone in a lot of ways. In Bosnia, it was very cold and in Haiti, the heat and dust was a constant factor. And because you are working with a number of police officers from all over the world, you have to learn to be flexible and have an open mind.”

Having strong nerves is another criteria as Del Papa remembers being shot at in 2003 during his first trip to Haiti as well as a harrowing escape by a van during a potential ambush complete with machine gunners, rock throwers and enough room for a car length to squeeze through to safety.

But despite the risks, Del Papa was proud to help train police officers of the future while helping rebuild orphanages and schools that had been destroyed in the earthquake.

Del Papa leaves his career “fulfilled because I enjoyed what I did because I liked working with the community, whether it is the West Island, Haiti or overseas.”
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