The South Okanagan’s top cop was flushed and we’re left to speculate why.
Did Supt. Ted De Jager get shuffled out because he was performing poorly? Or is he ready to move on after accomplishing an important objective?
Well, it’s hard to ignore the amount of criminal activity throughout the South Okanagan over the past couple years.
It is possible that crime would be even worse right now if it weren’t for De Jager’s efforts (and how much impact can one member have over crime on half of the Okanagan?).
De Jager approached the position with compassion. He shone light on the social issues surrounding extreme poverty, and he liked to say that we can’t arrest homelessness away. Much of his attention was focused on connecting mentally unstable people with the proper social services.
He definitely helped the RCMP reshape their image as a team of tolerant and understanding officers. A few bad cops (throughout the entire country) have given some civilians reason to see the entire force as a bunch of overzealous, racist, sexist bullies.
To give off the impression that the RCMP was listening to the public, De Jager hosted town hall meetings in Penticton, giving bitter citizens a chance to vent their frustration directly with the police (after sitting through 45-minutes of pie charts, bar graphs and excuses). But these poor people may as well have shouted into the void because the RCMP doesn’t take advice from the public. The town hall meetings were just dog-and-pony-shows to make critics feel like they were heard.
It’s easy to see why De Jager was criticized for downplaying a worsening crime problem.
He once announced that the police would stop responding to vehicle thefts, while nagging property owners for not locking their doors. For working class people, it feels like we face greater consequence for going 10 kilometre per hour over the speed limit than a drug addict who commits a B&E.
It is commendable that De Jager approached such a powerful position with sensitivity. He’s a progressive cop who wasn’t hard on people. But under his watch, the South Okanagan’s Crime Severity Index worsened quite a bit while the economy was growing.
Tough-on-crime approaches don’t seem to work though. The United States is home to nearly 25 per cent of the world’s prison population and things don’t feel any safer down there.
Still, there was an appetite to see De Jager crack the whip.
Some people wish the RCMP operated more like a Wild West film, where troublemakers get confronted by the badass marshal who shows up on a ferocious stallion confronts.
“I’m the sheriff ‘round here,” says a rugged-looking man with a sixpointed badge on his cowboy hat, cocking his revolver while he lets the crooks know he’s in a good enough mood not to blow some heads off so long as he never sees their no-good faces in this town again.
But it seems like the world is shifting away from fear-based leadership, and that might be why De Jager was hired in the first place.