New police chief lands in Ucluelet

Sgt. Jeff Swann will stay in town until house sells.

Ucluelet has a new police chief.

Sgt. George Jenkins landed in his brand new beat from Salt Spring Island earlier this month and has taken Ucluelet’s policing reins from outgoing detachment commander Sgt. Jeff Swann.

Swann fought hard for an extension to his Limited Duration Posting (LDP) in Ucluelet, and had the community’s support behind him, but his bosses said no and will transfer him to Port Alberni.

This transfer will not take effect until Swann’s house is sold and he will remain in Ucluelet until then meaning the local detachment will have two sergeants.

Jenkins told the Westerly News he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from his new detachment so far and Swann has been showing him the local ropes.

“I have a really good feeling about the dynamic here and I think Jeff and I are going to work very well together while he’s here and I’m going to be sorry to see him go,” Jenkins said. “I hope that it takes him a while to sell his house.”

Jenkins said he could relate to Swann’s situation as he was in a similar LDP bind on Salt Spring.

“I went to Salt Spring knowing that it was a LDP for four years but I hoped that they would just keep letting me stay, but the writing was on the wall and I had to go,” he said.

“I felt for Jeff that he’s in a place he wants to stay and he’s having to go but that’s kind of the reality and we know that coming in.”

Jenkins acknowledged the community fought hard to keep Swann in town and said replacing him will be a tough task.

“People here love Jeff and I don’t blame them. He’s done a great job here,” he said.

“It’s a little intimidating, I’ll be honest, but I think I bring a lot to the table as well and in the transition I think we’ll do very well together and when Jeff moves on I think my strengths will work well in this community.”

Like Swann, Jenkins has a keen interest in community policing and during his time on Salt Spring he served on several boards and committees helping to write grant proposals and administer programs around mental health, homelessness and affordable housing issues.

He also enjoyed being active with local youth and sat on a social enterprise committee, which sought ways of turning garbage and recycling disposal into fundraising ventures for local programming.

“It was very rewarding because it was a chance for me to have a positive outlet which kept me balanced,” Jenkins said.

“In police work, there’s a lot of negative things that you encounter and this was just a real positive way of giving back and keeping me centred.”

He believes the skills he developed through this work will transfer well to Ucluelet.

“I’m new here now and I need to be seeing where my gifts could best be utilized,” he said.

“I’m looking at how I can contribute in a meaningful way to this community, independent of my job here as the detachment commander.”

Jenkins celebrated his 24th anniversary with the RCMP last week and said he began his policing career as an Auxiliary Constable in Mission.

“I determined through that work that policing would be something I’d very much like to do and something that would be suited to me and my personality,” he said.

He went through three RCMP postings in Alberta, including an 8-year stint in Grand Prairie, before heading back to BC with postings in Surrey, Langley and the Fraser Valley.

He spent the past five years as Salt Spring Island’s detachment commander.

“That was the first time I was responsible for the operation of a detachment,” he said.

“It was a steep learning curve…As a detachment commander, especially in a smaller detachment, you wear a lot of hats; you’re doing supervision of the officers, your liaising with the community, you’re managing all the administrative tasks that keep the place operational.”

He said Salt Spring brought the “toughest” and “most rewarding” experiences of his career.

“It was really a great experience but it was probably the most challenging post I’ve had,” he said adding Salt Spring has a population of about 12,000 with eight police officers.

“You’re spread a little bit thin but, that being said, we had really good people and we did very well considering. We were creative solving problems and it was a really good experience.”

He hopes to continue building on Swann’s community policing efforts while adding his own flavour to the local detachment.

“I love what Jeff’s done here,” he said. “The relationship and the trust he’s formed with the community is just outstanding so I want to keep that going and build on that…I’m very much a community policeman but I also have strengths that I want to bring to this community and this unit.”

Jenkins attended last week’s regular council meeting in Ucluelet to introduce himself and said he plans to have further discussions with council to hash out this year’s policing priorities.

“We’re working up some priorities and we’d like them to give us some feedback on, what they think are issues that we should be focused on,” he said adding the community’s input will also be sought.

“We’ll take all the information and we’ll develop an annual performance plan, probably with at least three activities, that we can focus on and at the end we can measure how successful we’ve been.”

An avid fisher, Ucluelet’s new top cop is stoked on his new home.

“It’s a very friendly town, it’s got that small town feel that I love…It very much resonates with me both as a citizen and also as a policeman,” he said.

“To put it in perspective, we would move to this community if I didn’t have a job here. The fact that I have a job here and we can support ourselves is just a bonus on top of a bonus…It’s just everything I could have asked for.”

Jenkins arrived in Ucluelet with his girlfriend Dana Hicks and the couples’ two dogs: Duke and Tuesday.