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Monday, December 31, 2018

Owen Sound Police Chief Retires Today

Owen Sound | by Claire McCormack  

Bill Sornberger reflects on 42 years in policing.

Photo From Twitter @OACPOfficial 

The end of 2018 marks the end of Owen Sound Police Chief Bill Sornberger's leadership of the city's police service.

After 42 years in policing, Sornberger retires from the job December 31st.

Taking on his position will be Craig Ambrose from Waterloo Regional Police.

Sornberger's career saw him in a variety of roles, largely in Toronto, including riding a motorcycle, foot patrol, communications, human trafficking investigations, break and enter squad, detective work and heading up the Major Crimes Unit in Scarborough before he came to Owen Sound 11 years ago.  

Sornberger says he's not sure what he'll do next, "I have a couple of offers that have been made and some opportunities, we'll say, but right now I really just want to take it easy for a little bit."

That will start with a yearly golf trip in warm weather, says Sornberger, "I'm going to try and enjoy myself and just figure out what I'm going to do and maybe just stay retired, and maybe not, we'll see."

Sornberger began his policing career in Toronto in 1976.

He worked in the 52nd division at the Queen Street crossing between Eaton's and Simpson's, "It was different all the time," says Sornberger, "It was a really interesting start to the career."

Sornberger also worked as a motorcycle cop for a few years, which at that time, included driving around on a Harley Davidson all year round, even in winter.

He says during that time, there was one particularly memorable incident where he was involved in a fight with over 15 people in the middle of Danforth Avenue.

He came away with a broken wrist and a separated shoulder that spelled the end to his motorcycle riding.

In 1981, he went to 54 division where he did patrols and chased down suspects, "You'd get calls for break and enter in progress and you show up and there's people in the house and they're running out, and away you go. "

Then in 1983, he went back to 52 Division to work on the Juvenile Task Force where he worked to locate human trafficking victims for roughly five years.

"It was a tough job but it was very rewarding," he says especially when things were successful and they could get a conviction and help the victim, "You got them into a better life, a life they wanted; not the life someone wanted for them."
After that, he moved to the Break and Enter Squad which he calls "Terrific," saying, "That was right up my alley."

Later Sornberger policed in Scarborough for a number of years as a detective and then ran the Major Crimes Squad there, "You see the worst and the best of humanity sometimes in those roles"

Sornberger came to Owen Sound in 2007 where he was first, Deputy Chief and in 2011, became Chief.

During his time in the Scenic City, there was a 'bath salt' drug epidemic in 2012 where Sornberger says four or five people in an eight hour period began to, "Lose their mind over this stuff," Sornberger says they were incredibly paranoid, delusional and became very strong, "It was a major incident for us for about two weeks."

Sornberger was also at the helm during the arson fires of 2015, which saw more than a dozen homes at the bottom of the St. Mary's hill -- including a 10 unit townhouse complex -- destroyed by an arson spree that left 41 people homeless.

In a matter of days, police arrested 27 year old Donald Wilson who, in October 2017, was sentenced to roughly 9 years in prison (including time served before sentencing).

But he says his time in Owen Sound is not marked by negative incidents, "We've got to stop looking at the glass being half empty and realize that the glass is half full," he says, adding, "These 11 years here have been spectacular, yes we've faced adversity, we've done all those things, but the good days far outnumbered the bad."

So far, he plans to stay in Owen Sound and stay involved in the community.

"I want to see the community continue to grow, I want to see the Owen Sound Police Service look at being a provincial hub for communications and it can grow to be that."

He says that's what being Chief was all about for him, 'You have to make sure that you lead with an eye to the future, if you lead with an eye behind you, you're never going anywhere. You have to make sure that you're looking down the road."

But in a glance back over the years, Sornberger is satisfied with his career, "I'm fortunate, I got to love what I did."

You can listen to the full interview with Sornberger on the Open Line HERE

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