J.L. (James) Erskine
was born in Guelph, Ontario, on September 8, 1920. He was married to Jeanette, and had four sons, Danny who was a Senior Constable with the OPP and now deceased, Bruce, Rick and Barry.
During the Second World War, he served overseas with 405 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. On September 17, 1945, he was appointed to the OPP as a probationary constable, shortly after his release from the services, and, on January 3, 1946, was posted to No. 4 District Headquarters in Niagara Falls. In June 1953, he was promoted to Corporal and transferred to St. Catharines, where he served until June 1960, when he was promoted to the rank of Inspector and transferred to the Criminal Investigations Branch.
James Erskine headed the new Anti-Rackets Squad from its formation in 1960, and gained a considerable reputation following his investigation of the fraudulent sales of counterfeit works of art in 1963. He was promoted to Chief Inspector in 1965, to Staff Superintendent in 1968, and to the rank of Chief Superintendent in 1970. In December 1972, he served as head of the Special Services Division and later commanded the Field Division before being made a Deputy Commissioner in 1975.
In that year, he played a major part in the hostage-taking incident near Thamesford where he was successful in gaining the release of the captive children. In 1976, James Erskine served as President of the Quarter Century Club, following the footsteps of Commissioners Stringer, Silk and Graham. In 1978, he was elected President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the first time in the 27-year history of the Association that a member of the OPP had been so honoured. From September 25, 1981 to September 30, 1983, Commissioner Erskine served as the Commissioner of the OPP. In 1981, Deputy Commissioner Erskine was appointed President of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. He was a graduate of public administration at the University of Toronto and, also, served as chairman of the Ontario Traffic Safety Council. He served as Executive Director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and was a member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. On September 30, 1983, following his term, Commissioner Erskine left the OPP to head a new special government unit to combat problems related to drinking and driving. He acted as Honorary Colonel of the 11th Field Artillery Regiment located in Guelph. A 1988 30' Hike vessel was put into service on June 16, 1988, and assigned to the then Midland Detachment. It was christened J.L. Erskine. It is presently serving at the North Bay Detachment.