Tom Roy doesn’t like sitting behind a desk.
Over the course of his 33-year career in the RCMP, Roy has been primarily stationed in remote, northern communities. He was stationed in Cape Dorset in Nunavet and most recently he spent 10 years in northern BC as the Fort Nelson detachment commander. His latest role as Kootenay Boundary regional inspector has provided quite a change of scenery.
“This is a different type of policing for me. I’m used to northern-style policing where you’re working petroleum-based communities, oil and gas. I’ve done First Nations policing all my service,” he said.
Roy, whose father and sister both served in the RCMP, said he’s been interested in police work since he was a child and considers himself a part of the “RCMP family”.
His two teenaged children are nearly graduated from high school, and he’s in the “final stages” of his career. When he saw the internal posting for the Nelson job, he applied for the position immediately.
Roy said one of the primary issues facing local RCMP officers is the rising number of mental health calls they’re currently fielding. He said government funding and cutbacks have left first responders to deal with people that aren’t receiving the help they need.
“I started 33 years ago in Alberta and mental health calls were so few and far between that when you did get one it was like `wow’. It was a big deal. Now we’re dealing with them every single day,” he said.
“The problem is the resources needed to deal with mental health haven’t kept up with the demand of society today.”
He said the time officers spend helping people in mental distress has “exponentially quadrupled a dozen times over”, and has put a huge amount of stress on both the Nelson Police Department and the RCMP.
“We have some training but we’re not trained mental health workers,” he said, noting that a single call can take up to 3 or 4 officers off the street for the entire day. This necessitates a partnership between the two small policing organizations that they take advantage of every day.
“We wear different uniforms but we deal with the same things all the time. Mental health doesn’t stop at the border of Nelson,” he said.
Roy dismissed the idea that there’s any sort of combative relationship between the RCMP detachment and the cops.
“Nelson Police Department’s in the same boat we are. Unless mayor and council give them some money to hire more policemen, they’re not going to get any. Unless the provincial government’s going to pay us for more members, we won’t get any. So that’s why we need to work together to help each other out. That’s why we have a relatively good working relationship with them. All we have to do is pick up the phone and say ‘look, our guys are tied up on the north shore’ or ‘we got a call out at Blewett’ or ‘we’ve got a call on the highway’ and they go,” he said.
He said they also assist the Nelson Police Department by providing access to their forensic identification section, with their dog handler position and their general investigation squad. One Nelson police officer even works in their building.
Roy said he’s still settling into his new position.
“I spend more time behind the desk than I ever have, because I have a lot of people to do that stuff for me now. There’s no need for me to be out there on the road like I used to be, and that’s a fun part of the job, eh?” he said. So he’s planning, once he’s settled into a routine and established a good working environment, to get out into the community as much as he can.
“There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done out there. People like to know who’s running the show. You want to be known out there,” he said.
“I want people to know we’re here all the time. I’m very approachable. I have absolutely no problem with anybody dropping by the detachment if they want to meet me, or if they have something to discuss, something we could do better. I don’t want to be one of those recluses nobody ever sees,” he said.
In the meantime, he’s getting a kick out of the Kootenay Lake view from his office window.
“I’ve never had a view like this in my life,” he said. “Can you believe that?”