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Penticton's outgoing top cop leaving with his head held high

Outgoing Penticton RCMP detachment commander Ted De Jager's policing beliefs have been shaped by his upbringing and time spent with Canada's armed forces in war torn parts of the world.
September 26, 2019 - 11:13 AM

PENTICTON - RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager’s time in Penticton has not been without controversy.

He has faced criticism, especially on social media, for being seen as soft on crime but as the son of a clergyman and former member of the armed forces, his approach is a reflection of personal values that he says are complementary to those of the RCMP and Canada, in general.

“My core values — and I’ve made no secret about it — I care about everyone equally. I’ve been blunt in some of those conversations. I don’t care who you are if you’re a millionaire or a homeless person you’re going to be treated the same way,” he says.

"That’s the law in Canada and that’s my personal view, as I was brought up, that everyone is treated equally but accountably. As police, we’re going to be fair and that’s what we do,” he says.

De Jager travelled extensively in his former career in the military, seeing some pretty horrific things along the way.

"People talk about being tough on crime — I’ve been to some pretty bad places in my first career. When you see that and apply it to Canada, we have got it good. It doesn’t mean we don’t have our issues; addiction, homelessness, all of that, but there’s a way forward to resolve that, and that’s what we try to do. Intolerance isn’t the way,” he says.

“As a member of the armed forces, we still brought our Canadian values, and I think if that’s what we’re doing overseas, we should be able to bring those values to our own cities,” he says.

Treating someone differently because of what their affliction is, whether it’s addiction or mental health, or we just don’t like the way they look, he says, isn’t appropriate.

"It’s never going to fly with me or with the RCMP, or I hope with any decent Canadian,” De Jager says.

De Jager began his military career in Germany around the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. From there he did tours in Cambodia, and Yugoslavia.

“The kids in Cambodia had this game they played with their flip-flops. It was all about how the flip-flop landed how they scored points. It was fascinating.

"Then you come home to Canada and people are complaining because they didn’t get the latest X-box or Playstation,” he says.

“The value of life in a country like that is so different than here in Canada, where it’s all about me."

He saw the horror and damage of the Yugoslavian war of the 1990s, where neighbours who grew up beside each other turned against each other after war broke out over religious views. In Cambodia, even during the relatively peaceful time he was there, it was still so dangerous even the military wouldn’t venture out at night in some places.

“We talk about issues like drugs and such here, but it really pales in comparison to what people have to deal with over there. It doesn’t diminish our issues, but perhaps we could put in a little more tolerance and understanding,” he says.

De Jager says his focus has been on putting the real criminals behind bars, such as a suspected carjacker that was recently arrested.

"The people walking around on the streets aren’t the ones driving the majority of crime. Crimes of opportunity? Sure. Stealing a wallet out of an unlocked car? Sure, things like that, some of them, but not all. Most of what they are pushing around in shopping carts is valuable to them, but junk to most everyone else,” he says.

"I am tough on crime. It’s what the members are doing. They are going out every day to hunt these people down who are committing the actual crime and bring them to account,” he says.

De Jager says his biggest frustration in his two and a half years in Penticton is, in spite of endless warnings by police to the public to remove valuables from their vehicles, the detachment’s biggest crime type continues to be theft from vehicles, which are often left unlocked.

“All the dialogue of the past has not made a dent in the statistics. For all of the flack I got, from people saying I was blaming the victim and all that, no one has stolen anything from my car. There's nothing inside to steal,” he says.

De Jager is leaving Penticton with a good feeling about its citizens, in spite of the social media controversy.

“For every complaint I’ve seen on social media, the detachment has received 20 compliments, not just about my work but to the members as well. The majority of people in this town are good, decent, normal people and the good reputation this town should have for those people is overridden by those who say crime is out of control, and we’re being overrun by the homeless, as if we are different than any other Canadian city,” he says.

"I just wish, even at our leadership level, that people would start singing the praises of this community instead of all this negativity. I get it, if someone breaks into your house you want that person caught, and so do we, but at the end of the day working as a community together is what is going to solve this."

The superintendent will be taking on a new position as officer in charge of service delivery for the province in a role with the RCMP E Division out of Surrey later this fall.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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