VERNON - RCMP Superintendent Reg Burgess’ entry into the police force 35 years ago was a serendipitous one. The now 60-year-old had a business administration degree under his belt and was working as a loans manager in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was single and rooming with a fellow who happened to be a police officer.
“They recruited me to play on various sports teams and then they recruited me to join, basically, and I’m very happy I did,” Burgess says.
In a Nova Scotian family descended from rum runners and pirates, it was an unlikely career path, he jokes.
His first years in the force brought him across the country to the Lower Mainland where he served on the general duty unit. His background in banking gave him particular edge in fraud investigations. He spent time working as the court liaison officer and quality control reader (person who analyzes and reviews the quality of police work), positions now covered by civilians. Limited duration posts took him to small B.C. communities like Texada Island, Tumbler Ridge and Alexis Creek before he transferred to the Okanagan Valley in 1998.
He worked within the Community Policing Unit, the South East District Headquarters as an operations support officer, and in the Vernon-North Okanagan detachment as the officer in charge for the past five years. Now, the retiring superintendent is looking forward to exploring North America in his RV, getting his hands dirty in the garden, and enjoying his hobby of woodworking.
“I’ve had a really good career. I feel I’m leaving on a high note,” Burgess says. “You can become cynical in this job — you’re dealing with the 10 per cent of society that make poor choices. I’m cynical enough to be healthy, but not enough to be jaded.”
Like any cop who’s been in the force for 35 years, Burgess had some close calls, but says he’s been fortunate and always “won (his) fights when (he) needed to.”
Two of the biggest files handled under his watch were the Greeks Gang homicides and the murder of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest. He also administered a new, integrated policing system which brought the area’s smaller detachments together under a single response structure.
“I’m leaving feeling proud and satisfied that I’ve done my best to do good work in a great police force,” he says.
A police force not without its challenges.
The Vernon-North Okanagan detachment is home to a significant amount of serious crime, and Burgess says overseeing operations here is tough, but rewarding work.
“You don’t come here and expect to have an easy job,” Burgess says. “You earn your wage when you come to the North Okanagan.”
Much has changed within the RCMP since Burgess first signed on: the rise of social media, increasing pressure from Crown counsel to provide disclosure on cases, and new budgetary constraints. The only constant, he says, has been change itself.
Burgess is married with two children and plans to enjoy his retirement in the Okanagan. His last day on the job is March 19. Vernon RCMP Insp. Jim McNamara will be command the detachment in the interim.
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