Helping others part of Finn’s DNA

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Chatham-Kent Police Const. Amy Finn, shown here with her son Dean after a cancer fundraiser in 2015, received six nominations for the 2017 Police Association of Ontario Hero of the Year award. Windsor Police Const. Celia Gagnon edged out Finn in the community hero category.
Chatham-Kent Police Const. Amy Finn, shown here with her son Dean after a cancer fundraiser in 2015, received six nominations for the 2017 Police Association of Ontario Hero of the Year award. Windsor Police Const. Celia Gagnon edged out Finn in the community hero category.

After almost 29 years of serving and protecting her community, Chatham-Kent Police Service Const. Amy Finn is no stranger to helping people.

And those people wanted her to know how much they appreciate her care and consideration with six nominations for the Police Association of Ontario Hero of the Year award handed out recently in London.

One of three finalists in Ontario for the community service award – Windsor Police Const. Celia Gagnon won the award – Finn said she was shocked to hear she was nominated by Renee Cadotte, a 28-year-old woman the constable first met as a teen.

“I was honoured with the nomination,” Finn said. “You don’t do it (be a police officer) for any reason, but to get that ‘atta boy’ or pat on the back, it feels good.”

Finn was also nominated by her son, Dean, 12, who in his nomination said she was a “great mom that helps everyone and knows everyone,” and four other members of the community, one of which brought tears to her eyes at the ceremony in London.

A single mom with four boys, Finn is well-known in the community, always with an easy smile and calm, respectful demeanor to the people she comes across, both in her work life and in her community.

This is how one person described her:

“I would like to nominate Amy Finn. This amazing woman is a single mother who works hard to take care of her four boys. Amy is always cheerful and kind to everyone she meets. She can always be found helping out the community with toy drives, food banks, raising money for cancer, etc. No matter what walks of life people come from, she will always show them respect, and honours her duty to serve and protect her community. What an honour to call her my friend and mentor.”

Policing wasn’t Finn’s initial choice of career, but her mom encouraged her to apply for the position in Chatham when Finn was in her second year of pre-law at Carlton University in Ottawa. Her actual first choice out of high school, Finn explained, was joining the Canadian Air Force.

“I went to the Royal Military College for my entrance interview in 1985 and they asked me what branch I was interested in and when I told them Air Force, they told me I couldn’t be a pilot,” Finn recalled. “I walked out of there and went to Carlton to become a lawyer and fight for all the things women weren’t allowed to do,” she joked.

Finn applied for the position in Chatham and became one of the first women to be hired by the Chatham police on July 4, 1988. Finn found out that same day she faced an uphill battle with the attitude towards women in policing.

“There were no other females and I was told they didn’t want to hire me, but they had to. But I got a wonderful shift, and wonderful staff and I haven’t looked back,” the veteran officer said. “It was close to two years before another female came. I was a tomboy but I not only was proving my worth to myself, but to my co-workers and the community. My training officer, Peter Bakker, was the reason I stayed.”

While most fellow officers learned early on that Finn could handle herself, she brought a calm and respectful style of policing to her shifts walking the neighbourhoods of Chatham.

“I knew how to hold my own, but I decided I was going to make friends with people, because I would rather have them as a friend than an enemy,” Finn said, smiling. “My mom used to say I was the friend of the friendless. If I see someone standing there and they look out of sorts, I’ll go talk to them. I told my dad I got that from him. When I was a kid, he let people live with us for two weeks after they lost their jobs.

“When I was walking King Street, I got to see a different side of people. If you take the time to sit and talk with them, you may be able to change them. And at times, they helped me get through what I was dealing with in life.”

She reminisced about walking the beat and coming across a person known then as the town drunk, who would collect bottles and take them to the beer store. That person was combative when drunk and was usually met with force from the police when he would come up swinging.

“One day I saw him and I had these butterscotch candies with me. He looked at them and asked me if they were butterscotch and when I told him yes, he said butterscotch was his favourite. I told him if he would get in my cruiser and let me take him home, I would give him some. He hopped right in the back and never gave me trouble after that,” Finn recalled. “I wasn’t looking for a fight. I wanted to go home at the end of my shift and had four boys I had to be there for.”

Involved with Shop with a Cop, Goodfellows, Cops for Cancer where she shaves her head to raise money, and the Chatham Central Neighbourhood Association where she and her neighbours work to make the community they live in a better place, Finn is known for always dropping everything to help family, friends and even strangers in need.

From knocks on her door at 3 a.m., to people who want her advice while she is grocery shopping, the constable’s extended family will tell you she always has time for people and their problems.

Her only regret in life is not finishing university, something she plans to rectify when she retires after giving 30 years to the job.

When retired, Finn will miss Shop with a Cop – something she said is so important for kids to have a positive encounter with police and know officers aren’t the bad guys.

“My parents, people I’ve met, my kids; they made me who I am and how I look at life,” Finn said. “Just try and live that other life of some of the people I’ve come across and see how blessed you feel. Maybe if we just started looking at the positive aspect and what we have to offer, we would buy people that cup of coffee and pay it forward.”

Const. Amy Finn, right, gets a big hug from Joey Reid, 11, at the annual community luncheon Friday. Members of the local police association, as well as East Side Pride put on the event.
Const. Amy Finn, right, gets a big hug from Joey Reid, 11, at the annual community luncheon Friday. Members of the local police association, as well as East Side Pride put on the event.

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