CHUCK KUEPFER, Staff Reporter
Sigfried "Sig" Peter's job as staff sergeant of the Elmira detachment for the Waterloo Regional Police Service has come to end.
Dec. 31 will mark the last day of a 31-year policing career for Peters, as he nears retirement age but abruptly leaves the force due to reorganization.
"They couldn't have pried me out of here with a stick," said Peters. "Since coming up here, I've never regretted coming into work. My retirement comes with the removal of my job."
The WRPS will introduce changes to the way it polices the region's rural areas in the new year, which ultimately means local citizens will no longer have a full-time staff sergeant behind the desk at the Elmira detachment during regular office hours from Monday to Friday. Under the new model, staff sergeant Kathy Black will split time between the detachments in Elmira and New Hamburg.
"We still will be getting fully trained officers out here," said Peters. "We've never had a rookie. They're all seasoned officers."
Leaving the police force is bittersweet for Peters, who enjoyed assisting people and helping them find a solution to their problems — which is part of the reason he became a police officer.
"Being a policeman has defined me for the past 33 years. It's very fulfilling," he said. "When you've been very important and needed, it will be a shock to find yourself not needed."
Peters is pleased to be able to finish his career in charge of his own platoon of officers. His promotion to staff sergeant in Elmira came about with the retirement of Merv Knechtel in 2008.
Peters was 29-years-old when he joined the force. He had previously sold real estate and worked for his father's printing business before deciding to become a police officer.
"I was attracted to the excitement of it," he said. "I looked at the police job as being out on the road in a variety of situations, and both being useful and solving problems for people."
Peters spent eight years as a patrol officer in Waterloo, then three years with the Waterloo detective branch, before becoming the first "mayor" of the children's safety village, an educational centre at the Waterloo Regional Police Headquarters on Maple Grove Road in Cambridge.
After a year at the safety village, Peters returned to duty as a patrol officer with stints in Kitchener and Waterloo before a promotion to Elmira.
"I've really, really enjoyed my three years in Elmira," he said. "I've really appreciated the rapport we've had with the media. And here I'm so impressed with the honesty of people."
Peters was always amazed when lost wallets were brought to the Elmira detachment — sometimes full of "hundreds of dollars." He also saw that strength of character shine through during the annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, made possible by the efforts of hundreds of individuals and a tolerant community that welcomed hordes of tourists, as well as the continued recognition of veterans through the town's Remembrance Day service. He also found it satisfying to be able to return stolen property to its rightful owner, one of the benefits of working in a small community.
"People would come and say, 'I saw in the newspaper you found my bicycle'," said Peters, who noted that doesn't happen in the cities.
And although officers that patrol the Elmira area still deal with crime, Peters often had little to report in monthly meetings at police headquarters.
"My reports are routinely very short," said Peters. "One month I had to explain a 100 per cent increase in assaults. I explained that we only had one."
However, he's also had a taste of the danger that is inherent in the job.
"You know you're going to situations that are volatile," said Peters. "To say that I was never scared would be lying."
Peters said over the years his job has caused his wife to worry — and sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to pray for him.
As he exits the force, another Peters just begins a career in law enforcement. Peters had the privilege of handing a police badge to his nephew at a swearing-in ceremony in Cambridge earlier this month.
He also has a son-a-law that will continue to serve and protect in Waterloo Region — officer Dan Haines, who was stationed in Elmira when Peters was first promoted.
As Peters prepares to hand in his badge, he does so after a long and satisfying career.
"Anybody considering a policing career, I highly recommend it as a career choice," said Peters. "But it is a life commitment. It starts to define who you are. And I've been proud of that."