Staff Sergeant Mac Richards looks over some weekend reports in his office last week. The RCMP Staff Sergeant will be promoted to Inspector this fall when he takes command of the detachment in Port Alberni, British Columbia. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
Morinville – RCMP Staff Sergeant Mac Richards will be moving to Port Alberni, British Columbia later this year, ending a more than three-year stint as Morinville’s Detachment Commander. Richards takes over as the head of policing for the community of roughly 17,000 as early as this fall and will be promoted to the rank of Inspector.
“As far as the detachment goes, it is very similar to here in structure,” Richards said of the new post. “It’s just a little bigger than here. It’s about double the size. It’s still general duty policing, essentially doing a very similar job to what I’m doing here. Obviously they have some maybe different concerns in the community but, at the same time, many of the same concerns that not only Morinville has but communities across the country.”
Richards began his policing career more than two decades ago in Saskatchewan where he was posted for 16 years. During that time he worked at four different detachments and was involved in a variety of policing forms, including two years in a Metis settlement in Northern Saskatchewan, three years in a plain clothes unit in Lloydminster and some time with highway patrol. He came to Alberta in 2005, first working as a Sergeant in Drayton Valley before transferring to Morinville as Staff Sergeant in 2008.
“The vast majority of my policing has been that general duty king of front-line policing in one aspect or another,” Richards said of his policing career.
During his time in Morinville, Richards and his members have tried to play an active role in the community, both as police and as members of the community. “Part was not only the consultation with the mayor and councils for the different areas that I have, but also just listening to the public and having an idea of what’s going on in the community,” he said. “I live in the community, so that afforded me some opportunity to see what’s happening in the community. Morinville’s not a large city and it’s not a small town. It’s in that sort of transition zone yet. Part of it is not just us answering calls, it was engaging with the community. Whether that was as simple as showing up at a parade or going to the school, it was maintaining those contacts. Those relationships that we can build can pay off big dividends down the road.”
Richards said he and his members work to maintain Morinville and the other communities in the detachment reputations as safe communities.
That job was not the task of Richards or even his members alone. “My job was, in one sense, pretty easy,” Richards reflected. “I have a very good group of people to work with. They’re the ones that actually deliver the services. They’re the ones that are responding to the calls late at night. In that sense, it was really easy. It wasn’t a matter of changing the direction of the detachment; it was just keeping us moving in that area in that way.”
It is help that is appreciated, given the detachment’s geographical area. “In all of our area we have people living,” Richards said. “It’s not just large geographically; it’s large geographic but also population based. We’ve got a big area and none of our areas are shrinking. They’re all growing.”
But despite the growth in the detachment area, Richards said there has not been an increase in crime commensurate with that growth. “We’ve been pretty lucky. We’ve been pretty steady with or crime numbers,” he said. “Numbers are the same but our population is increasing. So per capita we are probably going down.”
Although the statistics are pleasing, Richards said the detachment is not complacent as crime ebbs and flows, something recent activity this summer has shown. “Last month we have been really busy and that’s going to change some of the numbers for the communities just because a crime wave comes through,” He said. “That’s some of the peaks and valleys when you look at the year.”
Transfer date uncertain
Just when Richards leaves will depend on when his house sells. He is tentatively scheduled to take over in Port Alberni in October. The Staff Sergeant said he did not know who will take over as head of the Morinville Detachment. If a replacement has not been named prior to his departure this fall, Sergeant Mark Mathias will take over as acting Staff Sergeant.
“It won’t be an automatic that he will assume the Staff Sergeant position here,” Richards explained, adding the replacement could be a lateral move from another detachment or a promotion from within the policing organization.
But whoever ultimately assumes the role of Staff Sergeant, Richards is certain the RCMP will continue to provide the community with solid policing.
“I think we provide a pretty good service to the community not only as far as responding to crime but being proactive in looking for crime,” Richards said, adding the detachment has the help of a number of organizations, including Citizens on Patrol, Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch, and Sturgeon Victim Services to make community policing work.”
Above: right: A public presence has been an important part of the work Richards and his RCMP members do. The Staff Sergeant is seen in this file photo talking to a young man during the 2011 Canada Day celebrations in Morinville. – Morinville News Photo