Burns, Lawrence (Staff Sgt.)

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                             STAFF SGT. LAWRENCE BURNS
                         Original plans to join RCMP canned
                         Celebrates 20 yrs. on town police force


Acting Chief of the Newcastle Police Department is celebrating his 20th anniversary this month. Lawrence Burns joined the Police force on Sept. 1, 1958. He was 26 years old. He is the only remaining original member of the first police force.

Mr. Burns always wanted to be a policeman. It had been part of his plans for a long time and his first thoughts on the subject were of joining the RCMP. His parents, the late Walter and Catherine Burns of Sillikers, did not fully approve of that idea. It was a large family consisting of four boys and four girls. His parents did not like the idea that Lawrence might be transferred to many parts of the country.

Mr. Burns decided to stay in the local area at first. He then left for Ontario with the Great Lakes Pulp and Paper Company where he knew he would make some good money. That was in 1953 when he was 20 years old. After one year in Port Arthur, he returned to Newcastle where he worked with the American Mining Company. It was the beginning of the mining industry in Newcastle. About four years later it changed the name to Heath Steele Mines Ltd.

In 1957, Mr. Burns married the former Shirley Hubbard of Bryenton. They have three children.

                                      Joins in 1958

Applications were invited for police constables in July 1958. Mr. Burns decided he would give it a try. He went to Moncton with four other applicants to write an aptitude test. He was hired in September.

The staff at the time consisted of a chief, a sergeant and three constables. The chief of police was Hood Crossman. He died early this year. Mr. Burns remembers that it was Chief Crossman who interviewed him for the job. The interview was held at the old Waverly Hotel in August of 1958. The force was only two months old when he joined. In 1961, Mr. Burns was promoted to sergeant and in 1970 to staff sergeant. Since 1958 the police force doubled in size. An innovation to it was the hiring of a secretary.

Mr. Burns said he enjoys police work; especially so in the early years. He said it was like being part owner of the town. Police work is always very interesting and educational. In earlier years, a police officer was often used as a poor man’s lawyer. “I always liked helping the less fortunate, and anyone else who needed assistance.”

                                        Helping the Poor

The acting Chief recalls working with the late Nora Galloway. “Every Christmas she used to give packages to the poor families in the community. Nora was one of the great women in Newcastle. She looked after many war veterans in the post war years. She was known to send packages to veterans as well as taking an active role in community projects. She was honored by the town when she was made a freeman”.

Mr. Burns said policing in the old days was somewhat more different than it is now. “We had one vehicle then. It was a paddywagon. Other policing was done on foot. The population of the town then was about 5,000. Mr. Burns said this day began at eight in the morning. The first thing he would do was to check the police vehicle, gas it up and carry out any maintenance needed. While he was a constable, he’d review the record book to learn the previous night’s occurrences. If there were any investigations to be carried out he would help with them. At that time, he said, he was primarily concerned with looking after the meters and motor vehicle work.

                                Changes came gradually

Changes came gradually to the Newcastle police department. Walkie-talkies were the first innovation, according to Mr. Burns. After that other electronic gear began to make an appearance. As well as new equipment, the department received its own identification section. At present the department has two cars, a number of radar units and a breathalyzer unit.

Mr. Burns said the workload has more than tripled since 1958. He said the typical day still begins at eight. On Mondays there is court to attend and investigations to look after. When time allows, he said, radar and breathalyzer units will be set up. Correspondence and secretarial work is done by the secretary. She looks after the typing of reports, information, summons, and accepting payments of fines. Mr. Burns said he has gained a great knowledge and experience in the field of police work over the last 20 years. He also added there is always something new to learn each day.

                                    Number of problems

He said it is hard to explain the definition of a policeman. It is difficult because he has so many different tasks to do. Years ago, he said the major problems were fighting and alcohol abuse. In this day and age it can be any number of problems. Mr. Burns said accepting these changes are part of the policeman’s job. “You have to grow with the changing times”. The acting chief said he would not like to retire until he reaches the age of 55. “In retirement, I would like to enjoy the rest of my life privately in the country”. Until that time he said he will continue to uphold the laws and provide “protection to the lives and properties of others in the town.”


Source: North Shore Leader Sept 13, 1978

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