Kamloops' chief of police, Yves Lacasse, who has been with the department for eight years will start a new career in February, as the manager of external relations for the controversial proposed copper gold mine project in Kamloops, Ajax Mine.
"I'm not interested in uprooting my family again and going somewhere else. I wanted to be in control of my own destiny," Supt. Lacasse said. "The RCMP strongly believe that mobility is important for one's career."
He said that he has achieved the highest rank in Kamloops, and that though he wasn't asked to transfer from Kamloops, he felt impending pressures.
"You never know what could happen in the future. It brought some uncertainty to our family."
Robin Bartlett, community relations specialist for KGHM International, said Lacasse was selected for his rapport with the community.
"He's very positive about his role in the community as well as the project and its role in Kamloops. We thought he would be a really good fit," she said.
He will take on a senior leadership role in the project.
"He will be working closely with the Ajax team and also with the community and the government," she said. "We're really looking forward to him joining the team."
He retires from his police ranking and begins his new role on Feb. 25.
"I'm going to a different challenge right now," he said. "There's a lot of issues with the project."
He said there is a need for improved communication.
"I hope that I'm going to be able to bring that to the table."
Lacasse said he has been a strong supporter of the project since the beginning.
"I believe this is something that will help our city thrive and grow," he said.
He said the mine would have a positive impact on Kamloops' economy, providing hundreds of jobs, but he's aware of public perception regarding his move as well as the project.
"This is a personal choice that I'm making," he said. "I'm certainly not about to judge you or anyone else about personal choices... There will be a lot of pressure, that's for sure. I'm going in there with an open mind and very wide open eyes. I know what I'm getting myself into."
He's not concerning himself over the fact the mine has not yet been approved.
"I would not be joining this project if I didn't think it would go through," he said. "I'm doing this because I believe in it."
He said that if the project is declined, he has other options as others have approached him for his services.
"I'll climb that hurdle if I have to," he said.
Lacasse takes with him 27 years of service in the RCMP, including eight years in Kamloops. He moved to Kamloops from Kelowna for promotion from Sergeant right to Inspector eight years ago. He was then promoted from Inspector to Superintendent in 2010.
He said he wasn't initially thrilled about moving to the Tournament Capital.
"My first impression was, 'why, what did I do?'" he said, but it didn't take long to warm up to Kamloops.
"My first weekend when I moved here, the moving trucks came and my neighbours were dropping off bottles of wine, pies, cards," he said. "It was just wonderful."
He said he took his family to the Dominican Republic shortly after the move where they randomly met others from Kamloops and instantly bonded with them.
"We have become best friends," he said. "These good friends of ours have invited us for Christmas dinner the last eight years now."
He said his whole life has been built around the city.
"I have so many great friends here. I love going to Kamloops Blazers games, I love going to local restaurants, I love going to local golf courses. At my age, I don't feel like uprooting from my community," he said. "My family is happy here and I need to put them ahead of everything else. Staying in Kamloops was key to this whole thing. During the last eight years I have fallen in love with this community. People have made me feel very, very welcome in Kamloops."
Mayor Peter Milobar said he was surprised to hear that Lacasse had joined KGHM, but that he wasn't surprised about his retirement.
"He wants to make his last stop in terms of making a permanent residence decision," Milobar said. "It's not uncommon if you take a lot of sectors in Kamloops. I guess when you're the Superintendent of the RCMP, any career change is going to be a head scratcher," he said.
He said the last two RCMP Superintendents in Kamloops have remained in the city.
"It speaks, in some way, to the quality of life in Kamloops."
Milobar said that he has had a positive relationship with Lacasse.
"He's certainly been a very strong presence in Kamloops," he said. "He's brought community safety a long way and communication both with the public as well as communication with City Hall. If nothing else, I think as we get information around the mine site that if he's presenting it, I would have confidence that he was not trying to mislead the public in any way."
Despite trust between the mayor and Lacasse, Milobar said it's business as usual when it comes to the mine proposal.
"I've let him know that we're still going to scrutinize that information to the highest level as an organization. That internal review of answers would still unfold whether Superintendent Lacasse was there or not."
Lacasse said despite his decision to move on, he is going to miss several aspects of being on the force.
"I'm going to miss the people," he said.
"I'm going to miss our staff. I will miss the camaraderie that we enjoy."
He said though he won't be catching up with fellow colleagues in the office, he'll be seeing them after hours.
"I was happy to hear that they are still inviting me to go and play hockey with them," he said.
He said he accomplished a lot in his time with the RCMP and is particularly proud of the work he has done in Kamloops.
"We changed the philosophy of the detachment," he said of changes made while he was at the Kamloops detachment regarding safety.
"Our philosophy when I came here eight years ago, we had a really reactive police department."
He said that changed with improved communications between RCMP, the city, the community and media as well as the prolific offender program that was implemented about six years ago.
"We've kept organized crime and criminal gangs out of Kamloops, that's something I'm quite excited about," he said.
He said he plans to take what he has learned in his time with the RCMP into his new career.
"I have a very good relationship with a lot of people in the community," he said. "I think my connection with the community will certainly help me greatly. It's about being honest, being truthful, understanding that you're only one part of the equation, and it's about working together, not about working against each other."
He said that he is moving on from his position with the RCMP, but he isn't going too far.
"I would like to say thank you to everyone for your support and I look forward to working with you again, but in a new role," Lacasse said.
— Jessica Wallace