Sgt. Swann optimistic about bid to stay in Ucluelet

Sgt. Jeff Swann’s bags aren’t packed; he’s not ready to go.

Swann is facing a forced transfer from the Ucluelet RCMP detachment this summer but has put in a request to stay two more years.

His bosses at the RCMP’s head office have so far refused this request but Swann remains hopeful they will reverse course.

“I work for an awesome organization called the RCMP that, I think, has made a decision and now they’re trying to find reasons to justify that decision as opposed to listening to what everybody is saying,” Swann said. 

 â€œThere’s nothing precluding any one of those people from stepping in and saying, ‘We can do this; we can make it work,’”

The Ucluelet RCMP detachment is tagged as a four-year Limited Duration Posting (LDP) but there is some confusion over whether or not this means officers must move on once their four-year commitment is up.

Chief Superintendent Ray Bernoties, District Commander of the Island District RCMP, told the Westerly News last month that there are a variety of reasons for a detachment to be hit with the LDP tag including access to education and health care.

“All of our members are well aware when they apply for these postings that their time in these communities is for a specific duration, and agree to those terms,” Bernoties told the Westerly in May.

Swann suggested he never agreed to a forced departure and that when he transferred to Ucluelet from Ft. St. John in 2009 he was not given any impression that he would one day be booted from Ucluelet.

“I knew it was a four-year minimum posting, there’s nothing that I’ve signed anywhere that said it’s a four-year maximum,” he said.

“When I came here there was no policy in place that said you have to leave after four years…Contrary to what Mr. Bernoties said, there was absolutely nothing that I signed that said I’m going to leave here after four years.”

He added Ucluelet is the perfect spot for his family—he has four young sons—and said the detachment’s LDP label that suggests poor access to schooling is misguided.

“The best for my children is staying right here with a school that loves and cares for them,” he said. “It’s just a real community vibe, everybody looks out for each other here; it’s phenomenal.”

He added the RCMP has transferred him four times while some officers in other Island detachments, like Victoria and Nanaimo, have never moved.

 â€œIf somebody is there already doing the job, I don’t understand why we’d waste $80,000 of taxpayer dollars to move one person out to move one person in…As long as the job is getting done, and getting done to an above average level, I don’t understand the logic,” he said.

“I’m not ready to vacate yet, especially when there’s members who have never moved.”

He agreed with Bernoties that another officer should have an opportunity to experience the view from Ucluelet’s helm but said he’s not ready to be unseated yet.

 â€œI’m hoping the next detachment commander will be 10 times better than me; I want that for this community,” he said. “I’m just not done the work that I need to do and want to do here…I’m just asking for two more years in Ucluelet to finish the community policing projects that we’ve started.

He said he could accomplish a lot with two more years in Ucluelet with the relationships and community connections his detachment has put in place.

 â€œWe’ve peeled the layers off that onion, we’ve trimmed the fat, and now we can really put our scalpel to work here and try to find new areas that we can reduce our crime even further (and) find new relationships that we haven’t developed,” he said.

“Before, we were so busy responding to calls…we didn’t have the time to build relationships. Relationships take time to build and the trust takes time to build.”

Bernoties had suggested staying in a low-activity detachment could cause an officer’s skills to wane but Swann—who received an IODE Annual Provincial Police Community Relations Award earlier this year—suggested Bernoties had not intended this statement to come across like it did.

 â€œIf you don’t have that drive or that spark to get up and go you’re skills are going to stagnate…My assessments every year from Island District have been exemplary,” Swann said. 

“If there was something in my assessments, or something that my supervisors found that were lacking in my skills, I want that to be highlighted to me. Tell me where my skills are waning, tell me where I’m losing my edge.”

He added Ucluelet’s crime rate has not always been low and attributed the roughly 60 per cent drop in crime over the past five years to his detachment’s community policing efforts.

 â€œWhen I first came here we were slated to get an extra officer because we were extremely busy. Ucluelet was a very busy detachment,” he said.

“We’ve effectively worked ourselves out of a job…We’re preventing crimes by community policing.”

Swann was recently named a Member of the Order of Merit by the Governor General of Canada.

“Established in October 2000, the Order of Merit of the Police Forces honours the leadership and exceptional service or distinctive merit displayed by the men and women of the Canadian Police Services, and recognizes their commitment to this country,” according to the Governor General’s website.

 â€œThe primary focus is on exceptional merit, contributions to policing and community development.”

As was reported in the Westerly News, Swann’s bid to stay in town has been well-supported by Ucluelet’s municipal council and business community and Swann said he has been thrilled to read about this support.

“I’m flattered by the comments that I read in the newspaper from the district of Ucluelet and the local businesses,” he said. “I’m so very proud and happy that they feel that way about the RCMP.”

 

Andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca