Constable James Nightingale had a couple of other careers before joining the Guelph Police Service, but policing was always in the back of his mind.

“When I finished high school I was interested in policing, but I knew at that time I wasn’t ready to pursue it. I wanted to get some life skills and confidence first.”

Nightingale studied accounting in college and worked in that field for a few years “but by the time I was 23 or 24 I realized sitting behind a desk all day wasn’t for me.”

When he realized he was not cut out for a lifetime of accounting, Nightingale had a chance to move to a remote First Nations community in northern BC where he got a job teaching physical education and special education while completing an undergrad degree. “Getting out of my comfort zone and learning how to navigate new challenges was actually a really good learning experience for me.”

That next step on his career path also took him home in a way. Nightingale’s father was an RCMP officer of Scottish and English descent who was assigned to various First Nations reserves in British Columbia, where he met and started a family with Nightingale’s mother.

“My two brothers and I were all born on different First Nations reserves, because my dad was stationed at different reserves every two years and that coincided with when we were born.” Nightingale’s family moved back to Ontario when he was nine, settling in Georgetown.Behind the Badge James Nightingale

Nightingale is a status Indian and member of Vancouver Island’s We Wai Kai Nation. He said growing up in southern Ontario since age nine he didn’t know much about his First Nations heritage, but extensive reading in his 20s and lengthy talks with his mother filled in the gaps.

His interest in policing was rekindled during those years teaching in BC.

 “I worked with a lot of RCMP officers and I saw how much they really cared for their communities,” he remembers. “I ran a rec program and a lot of the officers came out and it was nice to see because for some people in those communities they didn’t always have positive experiences with the police. It was great to see that community-building.”

After four years of teaching, Nightingale moved back to southern Ontario and finally pursued a career in policing. He joined the Guelph Police Service in 2015.

He relies often on his previous work experience in his current role as a high school resource officer, which he has done for more than three years. “It really is about building strong relationships,” he says of the HSRO role. “I don’t just want to tell them about me. I really want to hear about them and their experiences.”

Nightingale is also on the Guelph Police Service’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, where he serves as a liaison officer to the city’s Indigenous community.

“I live in this city and I want to help build those important relationships,” he says. “If people can get to know one officer because they have something in common it maybe opens the door to meet more officers and learn about all the good things we do.

“It’s about building bridges with various communities and it’s not all going to happen at once, but it’s important to do.”

When not working Nightingale enjoys playing basketball and volunteering in the community and keeps busy with his two young daughters.


Behind the Badge is a monthly series of profiles of Guelph Police Service members.