By Shannon Quesnel
RCMP Insp. Brad Haugli said conversation can solve problems. Talking settles disputes between neighbours and strengthen bonds between officers and the communities they protect.
Penticton's top cop will be taking these lessons with him when he heads to the Lower Mainland on April 5 where he will serve as the investigative services officer.
This won't be the last time he'll be in Penticton though. He started his career here in 1991, left for other posts and returned four years ago to serve as the officer in charge. In seven more years he will be back to retire with his family.
Haugli has made a lot of memories here and said he was lucky his first posting was at the Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Detachment.
“I was jumping for joy and my troop mates were quite jealous,” he said with a smile.
His first assignment was also memorable. It involved an old man, a kitten and a distraught pet owner.
When Haugli arrived at the scene on Windsor Avenue, the older man said the kitten he had taken had been abused by the neighbour who owned the animal.
“I could see no sign of that but I wasn't about to barge in, take the cat and barge out again,” Haugli said. “It was a matter of talking to this older gentleman. I had to be a little strategic.”
After a few minutes of chatting, the older man excused himself to his washroom. Haugli seized the opportunity and the kitten too.
“I grabbed the cat, a wonderful little kitten, and returned him to the neighbour who was waiting patiently on the other side of the fence.”
Haugli told the neighbour to take the cat and go back inside. The officer did not want a confrontation between the older man and the neighbour.
“I went back and the older gentleman came out and we had a chat. He didn't say anything about the kitten.”
Haugli said later he realized the older man might have had a type of dementia.
That experience had an effect. Haugli said through a simple conversation he gained an opportunity. The officer explained engaging with people this way is a “tremendous tool” in gaining public trust.
“You gain part of that confidence from the great work your team does in catching crooks and making the community feel safe,” he said. The rest of it comes from talking to the public, seeing officers at events, seeing them out of uniform and seeing Haugli or another commander as someone approachable.
Mayor Dan Ashton says Haugli's successor must realize Penticton relies on tourism. Haugli echoed the mayor's comments.
“We had to be sensitive to the policing challenges in the south Okanagan,” he said. The population swells during spring and summer. “We have wonderful beaches and hot weather and we have wonderful people in the community who welcome tourists with open arms.”
In other communities, calls for service, or the level of policing, stays the same year round. In Penticton and other tourist areas the calls spike when the weather gets warmer.
Haugli also said the RCMP's success in reducing reported crime by 15 per cent since 2008 comes from his team and the partnerships with such groups as the City of Penticton, the Downtown Penticton Association, volunteers, United Way, Citizens-on-Patrol and more.
“I think it's a real pat on the back for all the members and volunteers here.”
As for his replacement Haugli does not know who it will be. The City of Penticton will head a panel to decide Haugli's replacement.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-488-3065.