A cop's life like no other

Anthony Abbondanza
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Kirkland police constable Del Papa retires after 30-year career

As Constable Roberto Del Papa formally left Station 1 for the final time last week, he’ll always be regarded as the cop who pushed the proverbial envelop, whether it was behind the desk or out on the streets of Montreal and the world.

He has seen a war-torn Bosnia Herzegovina, was ambushed by Haitian rebels, helped rebuild Haiti’s police force, and raised half a million dollars to Montreal charities.

After an enjoyable and memorable 30-year career with the Montreal Police, Constable Roberto Del Papa wore his now black SPVM uniform for the last time on Feb. 6 as he’s set to enjoy the perks of retirement.

“I love the community. I have a sense of membership. I always enjoyed what I did. I always had a smile in the force. That’s what’s important,” he said.

“You have to leave when you’re on a high. I wanted to do 30 years. I did it and now it’s time to go.”

Born to Italian immigrants in Montreal, Del Papa grew up in St. Leonard. After studying physical education at Concordia University, he switched career path, enrolling in police technology at John Abbott College. Del Papa later graduated from the Nicolet police college in 1983.

The police officer was first posted to the Downtown, Montreal area in 1984, where he found himself in situations suited for an episode of ‘Cops.’

“One time we booked a couple of guys that were doing cocaine. They were tough guys. One guy tried to run away from us. We caught him on balcony and I was afraid for our lives. I thought we'd all land on the asphalt,” Del Papa said jokingly. “Those were just some of the crazy things you do when you’re young.”

Six years later, he transferred to District 12, a former Pierrefonds-based police station. But it wasn’t until he was assigned to the newly-created community relations officer post did Del Papa come into his own.

With a mandate to demystify the police’s role in Cloverdale, not only did Del Papa ease tensions within the community, beset by approximately 65 different nationalities, he managed to reduce spiralling crime rate which stood at 22 per cent at the time of his arrival.

The role of the community relations officer being a pilot project success, the SPVM began expanding the program throughout Montreal as they overhauled their network of police stations.

For the last 25 years, Del Papa, his wife Pina, and their two boys Giancarlo, 22, and Alessio, 21, have called Kirkland their home. It’s also home to Station 1, which serves the territory of Kirkland, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Beaconsfield, Baie D’Urfé, and Senneville.

It’s at the St. Charles Boulevard station where the community relations officer was the brain behind highly successful initiatives like ‘Feel Safe,’ a program designed to teach women assault prevention tactics, and ‘Drinking and Driving Stops Here,’ which saw local reporters become the guinea pigs in a drinking experiment to showcase the effects of impaired driving. 

Moreover, he helped raise close to $500,000 for charities like Special Olympics Quebec, West Island Women’s Shelter, and the Missing Children’s Network (MCN), among many others.

“He encompasses what community policing is all about,” said Pina Arcamone, director general of the MCN. “We’ll really miss him. It’s been an honour to have worked with him. It’s important to thank our unsung heroes.”

Perhaps his finest police work, however, happened outside of Canada during four peacekeeping missions, for which Del Papa deemed was “the all-star of policing.”

In 1997, he evaded landmines while rebuilding Bosnia-Herzegovina’s police force. Six years later, he began the first of three missions in Haiti to help local police handle the country’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rebels.

“All hell broke loose. We were getting shot at. We were targets. We had a mandate and we did our best and that was it,” said Del Papa, who returned to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in 2010 and 2013 to help with the relief effort as well as establish community policing.

As Del Papa formally leaves Station 1 for the final time this week, he’ll always be known as the cop who pushed the proverbial envelop, whether it was behind the desk or out on the streets of Montreal, and the world.

Follow @AAbbondanza1 on Twitter!

Organizations: John Abbott College, Montreal Police, Concordia University Missing Children

Geographic location: Montreal, Kirkland, Haiti Bosnia Herzegovina Nicolet Cloverdale Canada

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