(This column was published in the North Shore News on Nov. 13, 2002)

 

Cop candidates abound

 By Leo Knight

AS we enter the climactic moments of the local election campaigns, it is interesting to note the number of former police officers seeking public office.

 

Not that this is a bad thing, quite the contrary. One thing a former cop brings to the table is the ability to see the reality of the world. It's impossible to be a cop and maintain any sort of naivete about the world around us.

 

Would that I could say that about most of the politicians who climb the greasy pole. For the most part, politicians, especially the federal variety, seem so far removed from the day-to-day realities that one wonders if they have ever had to earn a living the honest way.

 

But the current crop of would-be municipal politicians boasts a number of former police officers who are seeking your vote to try and make a difference in a way much different than they have been used to.

 

Leading the pack in terms of profile is Vancouver mayoralty candidate Larry Campbell. But there is also Vancouver council candidate Vern Campbell (no relation) who retired from the Vancouver Police Department as a popular superintendent when the chief's job was not available to him.

 

Also in the Vancouver mayoralty race is Val McLean, a former Mountie who is best known as the face of the Better Business Bureau in Vancouver.

 

In North Vancouver City there is Bob Heywood who retired from the RCMP as a superintendent and was once the officer in charge of the North Vancouver detachment. In the district there is Doug MacKay-Dunn who called it quits last year after 30-plus years with the Vancouver Police Department. He retired as acting inspector responsible for the mean streets of the Downtown Eastside, or "the skids" as the area was known in the days before political correctness invaded the daily lexicon.

 

Now I must confess a connection to some of these people and thus declare my conflict in this piece.

 

In the mid to late 70s I worked with Larry Campbell in Langley. He was a corporal in drug section and I was a baby Mountie, pink cheeked and green as grass. Larry was a mover in the detachment, the social director of sorts. He was the guy to organize a card game after work or an afternoon expedition to Dick's Bar in Bellingham in the days when drinking on Sunday would have collapsed society in British Columbia.

 

I considered Larry a mentor and I tried to emulate his way of doing things. He left the RCMP along with then Langley inspector Bob Galbraith, who retired to take the job of regional coroner and took his best and brightest with him, Larry and colleague Norm "Louie" Libel.

 

Larry went on to become regional coroner then finally chief coroner for the province before retiring last year. He was always a leader and despite his COPE affiliation, I can easily envision him in the mayor's chair in Vancouver.

 

Years later, after transferring from the Mounties to Vancouver Police Department, I got to know the other Campbell, Vern, a rare bird indeed. He was a commissioned officer who commanded the total respect of the rank-and-file men and women who did the dirty work.

 

Doug MacKay-Dunn, was, in a lot of ways a square peg in a round hole. He was never cut from the same cloth as the average police officer. But he excelled at everything he did as a cop including working in a dangerous undercover assignment early in his career or running the Vancouver Integrated Intelligence Unit investigating organized crime. He finished his policing career in charge of the meanest streets anywhere in this country.

 

He cut his political teeth, not when first elected to North Vancouver school board, but rather when dealing with the various community groups all out to do the right thing as they saw it in the worst neighbourhood imaginable.

 

He has spent a term on district council and quickly decided he had a better way. He's been running his campaign for mayor for the guts of a year now. He passionately believes he can do a better job and I believe him.

 

The difference for all these men and women is simple; they know the status quo is not acceptable. They have given a significant percentage of their lives to the service of their community in the truest sense of the word. Not paying lip service to the term as is so often the case with politicians, but actually getting their hands dirty in the process.

 

Most cops, you see, have to deal with the result of the political decisions made by those who haven't a clue. They are not allowed to speak out publicly. They live a career where they have to maintain a stiff upper lip despite being knee deep in the evidence the status quo doesn't work.

 

They have now been freed up to speak their mind and take their collective real experience and position themselves to continue their life-long commitment to actual public service.

 

Individually, I support them all. But I don't live in Vancouver and I confess some personal concern about the political alliances Larry Campbell has made. Having said that, they all have my confidence and support.

 

I live in the District of North Vancouver. I want my mayor to go to bat with the provincial and federal governments on the bread and butter issues that concern me; the safety of our neighbourhoods and the protection of our children.

 

In my area, I have seen nothing from the incumbent that inspires anything but a lack of confidence. I can't vote for them all, but I do know it's time for change.

 

 

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