Listen and learn from the community.
That’s the best advice RCMP Supt. Keith Robinson can pass on to his successor as commanding officer of the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment.
“Whoever comes in, what they need to do is sit back and listen and learn,” said Robinson, who’s retiring on Feb. 1 after nearly 40 years in the RCMP, the last three years as commanding officer of the UFVRD.
“You’ve got to take a look at the people around you, the people working with you, and listen to the community and what they want,” he said. “That’s how I came in.”
Robinson said that task was probably easier for him because he had been the detachment’s operations officer before he took on the job of officer in charge.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out what we were going to do,” he said.
RCMP Insp. Grant Wilson, the current operations officer in the UFVRD, will be the acting commander until a replacement for Robinson is hired. It’s not known whether Wilson has applied for the position.
Nine RCMP officers are currently on a short-list of applicants, which the four mayors in the region will review before approving a new commanding officer.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the mayors of Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope are meeting this week to review the applicants.
She said Robinson delivered on his promise to bring stability to the detachment, and was key in getting the prolific offender program under way, which has reduced crime across the region.
“He has set the mark really high, and we can expect great policing to continue,” she said.
The Fraser Valley mayors are looking for a replacement who shows leadership, she said, “and someone who believes in community and inculcates that value in his or her staff.”
Robinson said the challenge for the incoming commander, male or female, is maintaining the regional policing model, while at the same time delivering police services tailored to the four communities in the detachment area.
“The communities are different, and they’re each looking for a different policing style,” he said. “We provide a basic service, and then we enhance that service by whatever the community requires.”
Chilliwack has its downtown crime issues, he said, the rural communities of Agassiz and Hope need a more visible police presence, and the recreation community of Harrison Hot Springs needs a special focus in the summer months.
Robinson said the RCMP has changed “considerably” and “all for the better” in his 40 years of service.
But the positive changes don’t get the same media attention.
“The nice thing about our outfit, and I don’t think it gets reported on well enough, is that we’re always open to listen to what people consider to be our problems,” he said. “What we don’t see often enough is all the good things, the positive side, of the general work that’s done by the membership.”
“If we never did anything about (an issue), that’s where I would say we have a problem. But we do things about it.”
While the media is still writing about the lack of communication in the RCMP, Robinson said changes have already been made to remedy that problem
“We communicate now far better than we used to 20 years ago,” he said. “There’s been no better time. You don’t see that (reported) in the press.”
“My point is, if you want to go after an organization you will always find warts,” he said. “And if you focus on the warts, that’s all you will see and that’s what happened to the RCMP.”
“But if you were to take that focus and redirect it to any other professional organization,” he added, “you’ll find the warts, and if you focus on the warts, eventually that profession will have issues with public opinion.”
Robinson also said the RCMP is already the regional police force that’s being called for in the wake of the police mishandling of the Pickton investigation.
“We’re probably the most regional police force anywhere,” he said. “We provide a service at far less cost than any municipal police force in the country.”
“If you want a regional police force, hire the RCMP and we’ll come in and do the job.”
Robinson, who lives in Chilliwack, said his retirement plans are traveling and taking time to pursue his wood-working hobby.