/OPP sergeant nominated for Hero Award
Paul McDonald of the Haliburton Highlands OPP has been nominated for the Police Association Services Hero of the Year Award. Courtesy of the OPP

OPP sergeant nominated for Hero Award

Officer’s actions worthy of award nomination by Police Association

By Darren Lum

There are heroes among us and sometimes they’re given the recognition they don’t want, but deserve.

Haliburton Highlands OPP sergeant Paul McDonald was recently nominated for the Police Association’s Hero Award, through letters of nomination by people directly affected by his willingness to listen, be present and contribute to the community.

From a posted message, on the Police Association website: 

“In July of 2015, my family was shattered by the news of my young brother’s passing in a car accident. One of the responding officers was officer Paul McDonald. For almost seven years, I’ve tried to think of ways to repay him for the love, care, support and service he provided my family and myself the night of and after my brother’s unexpected passing. Even though the news wasn’t easy to break to my family nor was it easy for us to take, I felt comforted at the same time when officer McDonald told me. He stayed by us to make sure we were getting all the support we needed and helped arrange for us to see my brother before he was taken to the coroners office. Officer McDonald went above and beyond that night and after to make sure my family and I were receiving all the support we needed. I have yet to figure out a way to repay him for everything he has done for us, but I hope that he gets the recognition he deserves for the incredible service he provides to the community. To Officer Paul McDonald, as I write this with tears in my eyes and a very heavy heart, I need you to know that you made an incredibly horrifying situation better. I know there is nothing I can do to repay you for what you have done and continue to do, but I thank you very much for being supportive, caring, kind and most of all my hero. We need more officers like you. Thank you.”

The OPP officer joined Haliburton Highlands six months ago. He has been an officer for close to 15 years and has worked in Haldimand County, Quinte West/Trenton, and Peterborough, where he was able to secure funding (along with a Canadian Mental Health Worker) for the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) in Peterborough where it went from part-time to a full-time operation during the time he was the mental health liaison officer for the MCIT. This was the result of looking for a new direction, as a result of his own mental health struggles after many on the job tragedies according to the association.

Being a fourth generation cop, policing is a family legacy he is proud to continue. This nomination isn’t the first time McDonald has been recognized for his service.

He was the runner-up for a mental health officer of the year award last year and received the Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving in 2011.

To McDonald though, policing has never been about the recognition. It’s always been about the giving back to the community.

McDonald said the nomination is nice to receive, but it actually embarrasses him to some extent to receive the attention. However, the value of this nomination is about bringing attention to the work and the difference policing can make for a community.

“Just knowing people recognize the contributions in what I do, and just the nominations themselves are what matter to me. It’s hard to say because, again, I don’t do it for the nominations or the recognition or to win awards. When I win awards I feel kind of embarrassed because it’s not what I signed up to do. I just want to make a difference,” he said. 

His start in policing started when he was 18 after a traumatic experience.

“I really don’t want to get into the gist of it, but someone very close to me was sexually assaulted and almost murdered. And the investigating police service that [worked the case] didn’t really make that person feel like a victim, but may have made them feel like it was their fault … and just the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. And from that day forward at 18 years old when I got that phone call to help somebody I just said, I can do it a lot better than the people I saw doing it before me,” he said. 

The key aspect to his interactions with people in need is compassion, which is done by employing strong listening skills, to hear what is said and wait for his turn to speak.

“It’s not our opportunity to put our two cents into the conversation. For me, it’s an opportunity to listen to what they have to say and just let them know that I’m there. Right, if we take the time, and [not] kind of rush to get onto the next call, so, if we just take our time with the call that we have, we can be more impactful to the victims and the people we serve in our community,” he said.

The winners will be announced later this year.