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Background and Career

My name is Michelle Coulombe, I have lived in Sudbury, Ontario since 2001, and two years ago I retired from a very fulfilling career as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a police officer but this was not an option for me as I could not meet the height and weight restrictions. The last of the physical restrictions on police officers were later lifted and my dream to serve and protect the people and our communities in Ontario was realized in 1994 when I joined the Ontario Provincial Police.
When the OPP first hired women as uniformed members in 1974, they faced varying degrees of challenges as they embarked on their new careers.  Many were not accepted at their detachments, doing “a man’s job”.  It didn’t help that their uniforms were vastly different from their male counterparts; skirts rather than pants, purses for their sidearms and handcuffs instead of duty belts, blocky high-heeled shoes in place of boots, and silly-looking hats very unlike the male peaked cap.

Family and Community Involvement

A lot had changed twenty years later when I joined, and I have always credited these women for leading the way for future female officers and making it a better, accepting and equal profession for us.
On my first day “on the job” in uniform on December 29, 1994, the Detachment Commander paired me up with Cst. Graham Hunt since my Coach Officer was on vacation leave. Even though he told me “Follow the rules, do as I say, not necessarily as I do”, we still managed to find a bit of trouble.  It was a stormy, windy day, and during a traffic stop, our Detachment Commander drove by and saw that were not wearing our hats (to save them from skipping down the highway, or into a ditch).  Needless to say, it would be the shiny new rookie in the spotlight, but we shared the blame, and the partner bond was formed. A year later, we also became life partners and now 29 years later, we are enjoying our retirement lives and adventures together.  We still laugh about the day “the Boss drove by”.
Our daughter Patricia has joined us in the family business, as a civilian dispatcher for the RCMP in Ottawa, with the aim of becoming a uniformed member in the future.
Assigned to general law enforcement duties for most of my career, I enjoyed the diversity of the OPP, patrolling towns, vast areas of backcountry, trails and waterways, and working in partnership with many different enforcement agencies, federal, provincial and municipal, along with community and social agencies, toward the safety and well being of the citizens we serve.
I was involved in many critical incidents and experienced the stressful impact that leaves long-lasting, and for some members, life-altering memories. Thankfully, the bad days were far outweighed by days when I was able to help people, to assist them in managing traumatic and painful events, and particularly those days when not much occurred, except interacting with folks and showing them that the police are people too.
But I was also most fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as the Community Services and Media Relations Officer for several years.  This role was very rewarding for me as I was able to provide educational awareness on various safety topics and promote community safety, injury prevention and traffic safety for all ages, youths, adults and the elderly. I served on a number of civic and educational committees that supported the different segments of our communities.
One of my most impactful interactions happened when I was teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, once per week, to grade 6 students in our local schools. One of my students was not interested in learning the risks associated with drug use. It was always a struggle to try and keep this student engaged but I never gave up. By the end of the program, this student’s attitude had changed completely to the point where she delivered a speech to her classmates at their graduation on the dangers associated with drugs and alcohol. This is one of the times I thought to myself, “I might have saved this young girl’s life.”

Thankfully, the bad days were far outweighed by days when I was able to help people, to assist them in managing traumatic and painful events, and particularly those days when not much occurred, except interacting with folks and showing them that the police are people too.

Michelle CoulombeRetired OPP Officer

Retirement and Future Adventures

I was able to retire in April 2021 after serving 27 years with the OPP, along with 3 years of previous OMERS pension service.

In the summer, my husband and I love to spend time at camp and go boating, hiking, and enjoying nature.  We also like to spend time with our children and grandchildren and all of their activities.

We spend our winters in Panama City Beach, Florida with our friends where we golf every day, play pickleball, go bowling or take walks on the beach. We love to travel, especially cruising and we’re slowly crossing points of the globe off our bucket list.
Our favourite cruise/trip by far was this past March when we cruised to Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, Cape Horn and other ports of call. The feeling of just being there on the white continent was overwhelming.  We literally went to the end of the world and saw humpback whales, sea lions, icebergs and thousands of penguins, then enjoyed a post-cruise get-away to Iguazü Falls National Park, Argentina which borders Brazil and Paraguay; one of the true wonders of our planet.
We are looking forward to our first river cruise this November on the Rhine River. While we’re in Florida this coming winter, we’ll drive down to Miami at the end of January and go on the inaugural cruise of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Icon of the Seas. In April 2024, we’re doing another river cruise in Vietnam & Cambodia with a post-cruise trip to Thailand. As I mentioned in the Applaud Travel Forum, we have been busy helping our friends organize a cruise for First Responders and Veterans (Canadians & Americans) scheduled for Nov. 8-17, 2024 sailing to the A-B-C islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) and Grand Cayman Island. If anyone would like information on this cruise, feel free to contact me.
Our careers were exceptional, and now we are living and loving our retirement experiences, wherever they may lead.