by Ray Hudson
When Delta’s new Police Chief takes over officially on June 29, he will be on familiar territory, because of the path laid down by retired chief, Jim Cessford. Neil DuBord worked in the community policing system which Cessford helped implement in Edmonton, then brought to Delta. DuBord was on the Edmonton force for 25 years, knew Jim Cessford, but never worked under him. Three years ago he moved to the coast to become chief of the Transit Police, but when Chief Cessford retired in February, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Asian Journal: Why did you become a police officer in the first place?
Neil DuBord: In policing you are empowered to be able to help people and serve, and that was really rewarding to me. My parents were always volunteering and I grew up to understand and appreciate that. I began my career in 1989, in Community Policing, in a neighbourhood foot patrol project, as one of 21 officers that was assigned a geographic ownership area in downtown Edmonton. That’s where I began to understand community policing, problem solving, ownership of an area for police officers, a great deal about community engagement and how we needed the community in order to be successful.
AJ: It makes a difference not being in a car?
ND: It’s wonderful. You don’t have the air conditioning on, you don’t have the radio on, you don’t have a partner to talk to. You learn how to talk to people. The best skills I learned in my entire career were from walking a beat in downtown Edmonton.
AJ: What prompted your move to the lower mainland Transit Police?
ND: I had risen to Deputy-Chief, in the Community Policing Bureau in Edmonton, responsible for five patrol divisions and five superintendents who reported to me, as well as the duty officers who were responsible for 24/7 coverage of the city. I was looking to lead an organization and continue my learning when the Transit Police opportunity presented itself. It was such a unique organization with a unique governance model. I learned more about being a leader and running an organization in three and a half years here, than in my entire policing career. I dealt with 21 different mayors, 17 police departments, where everything we do is in another police department’s backyard. You have to be outstanding at building and maintaining relationships.
AJ: You took over while it was going through considerable critical scrutiny. What did you do?
ND: We set up a Chief’s Community Council, with people from different geographic regions in our system, and people from different vulnerable areas in our system. That was my advisory group. We’d meet four times a year and talk about how to make the transit system safer and ask for their participation in making it safer. Secondly, we divided the area into geographical sections, then, just like Edmonton, assigned ownership to specific officers. When officers own an area, they take good care of it.
AJ: So you’re coming into a community, much smaller than Edmonton, comprised of three town centres pretty much independent of each other. How will you approach things here?
ND: I think Delta is set up for enormous growth; the ports, the ferry system, the airport, four major highways, the tunnel and eventually a bridge, a significant rail line, the Tilbury and Annacis industrial areas, and the agriculture industries. Most communities of 100,000 people would only have two of those features. Delta’s got them all.
Delta has invested wisely in their Police Department, and through good leadership they’ve been able to keep the lid on some of those issues that plague other municipalities and stop them from spreading widely into Delta. It’s the value of ‘no call too small’ or as I like to say, you gotta sweat the small stuff, and when you do that, it automatically takes care of some of the big stuff.
AJ: What would you like to identify as a priority to deal with?
ND: I’m going to continue the effective and efficient police model that’s been built in Delta over the years, but I think there are a few challenges in the future that will put pressure on our services; economic growth, mental health, and further diversification of our workforce. These three things are areas that I’ll concentrate on as we continue to serve Delta. I thank Mayor Jackson for the honour and privilege of being the next Chief of Police, and I’m excited about getting out and meeting the folks. I want the community to feel that I’m available for them. I want to be completely accessible.