Longueuil police officer, 78, retires after 58 years on the job

Sergeant Lionel Bourdon, 78, started as a police officer in 1965 and worked his last shift on Thursday. “I just can’t believe it,” he said.

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When Sgt. Lionel Bourdon started out as a cop in 1965, he was equipped with little more than a six-shot revolver and a pair of handcuffs. He was earning $72 a week.

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Almost every facet of police work has changed since then, but his passion for it never wavered.

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On Thursday, colleagues, friends and family gathered at the Longueuil police headquarters to see Bourdon off as he finished his last shift after 58 years on the job.

“I just can’t believe it,” the 78-year-old said. “I’m going to need to unpack this.”

According to the Longueuil Police Department, Bourdon is considered the longest-serving police officer in Quebec and probably Canada.

Speaking to reporters moments after being honored, Bourdon seemed overwhelmed by the moment.

Longueuil Police Sgt.  Lionel Bourdon waving
Longueuil Police Sgt. Lionel Bourdon greets his fellow police officers. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

He said that he knew he wanted to be a police officer since he was a child. His family lived opposite the Longueuil station and he watched the officers come and go all day, fascinated by what they were doing.

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Bourdon said that he has worked on so many changes to the way policing is done throughout his career that it’s hard to list which are the most important.

But he spoke of technological advances as an example, from firearms to police radar, pointing to advances in DNA technology as one of the biggest improvements.

She also recalled how women first joining the police force, during the 1970s, came as a shock to everyone before everyone realized how much she brought to the department.

Throughout his career, Bourdon worked in the department’s forensic identification section and spent 13 years in criminal investigations. Since 2008, she has supervised a road safety team.

In the late ’70s, he was tasked with working on an extortion case in which the family of a Wells Fargo branch manager was kidnapped and forced to hand over at least $1 million.

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Bourdon worked on the case with the provincial police, and the lessons he drew stuck with him.

“I learned a lot during that period,” he said.

When asked about the push for officers to take a more community-based approach to policing, Bourdon said he couldn’t speak to it from experience, but he drew parallels from his early career.

The town was smaller then, he said, and he spent turns patrolling on foot, meeting with local merchants and, since most did not yet have alarm systems, checking to see if their doors were locked at night.

“There was a different kind of proximity to the community, because of the realities of the time,” he said.

Despite Bourdon’s age, the department said Thursday that he still passed his regular shooting and emergency driving tests every two and five years.

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Bourdon said he’s considered retiring in the past, but never felt ready to leave the job. When most police officers retire, he added, they move on to a different job.

“For me, instead of going to work elsewhere, I would rather continue doing my job,” he said, adding that he felt working with younger officers kept him young at heart.

His longtime wife, Francine Bonin-Bourdon, said she never saw his enthusiasm for the job wane over the years.

It could be exhausting, he said, but he saw it as his passion rather than a profession.

“There wasn’t a morning where he woke up saying he didn’t feel like going in. That never happened,” she said. “He was always happy to go to work and saw it as his second family.”

Police officers from the Longueuil police department were joined by officers from the Sûreté du Québec, the Montreal police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and others for Thursday’s ceremony.

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Everyone erupted in applause as Bourdon radioed his last “10-19” — the department’s code to indicate the end of shift — from his car in the parking lot.

Longueuil Police Sgt.  Lionel Bourdon speaks into a police radio microphone
Longueuil Police Sgt. Lionel Bourdon calls the station for the last time, after 58 years of service. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

As for whether Bourdon has any retirement projects in mind, he said he hopes to work at a police museum in Longueuil. In terms of regrets throughout his career, he couldn’t think of any.

Fifty-eight years later, Bourdon couldn’t remember much about his first day as a police officer, other than how proud he felt when he first put on his uniform.

He said he hopes young people considering the job can share that sentiment.

“If they’re passionate about it, they won’t regret it,” he said.

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