Categories: Community

Career RCMP officer hangs up the Red Surge after 34 years

After a 34-year stint with Canada’s national police force, Corporal Ian McLean of the Rimbey Detachment of the RCMP is calling it a career.

Born in Swan River, Manitoba, McLean was raised in Drayton Valley but admitted he probably wasn’t the best student in high school and was seriously considering what to do for a living, but the Olympic Games changed all that.

“Well when I was not graduating from high school in 1973 in Drayton Valley, I was starting to worry about what I was going to do for my future,” McLean said. “Back then, the RCMP were hiring because there was a big push on because the Olympic Games were coming to Montreal in 1976.”

He said he filled out an application form, was accepted into the force and 11 months later, he was at the RCMP Training Depot in Regina. After graduating, he said he was assigned to his first posting that sent him to a small community in eastern Saskatchewan, even though he had his heart set on returning to Alberta.

“As soon as I was over the disappointment, I got my first Detachment which was in Pelly, over near the Manitoba border,” he said. “At that time there was only about 300 people, but it was my first experience with native policing, and my first experience with indigenous people and their culture.”

McLean said it didn’t take him very long to realize this was the kind of work for him and being exposed to different cultures was a very enjoyable element of the job.

From there, he was transferred to a number of different towns and cities in Saskatchewan including Outlook, Humboldt, Kamsack, Swift Current and Yorkton.

“I was a uniformed Detachment man for all my service except for five years that I spent in Swift Current as a school resource officer,” McLean said. “I had an office in the Swift Current Comprehensive High School and I taught drug awareness classes to elementary schools and junior high. I also took all the complaints from students including a lot of disclosures on assaults and those kinds of things.”

It was in Swift Current where he found what would become one of his true passions – working with youth in general and Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) in particular.

Similar to the situation facing the RCMP today, McLean said when he joined the force back in the 1970s, the RCMP was very senior – in other words, many members had many years of service under their belts and the force was aging. As a result, McLean said promotions were few and far between, but in 2000, he was promoted to the position of Corporal and was transferred to Yorkton.

While there, McLean said his duties included the supervision of junior officers and to be on the streets to assist and respond to calls.

“But my parents were aging and my mother, at the time, was particularly not well, and I had requested moving back closer to Drayton Valley to finish my career to help out my parents if possible, and I was accommodated by the RCMP and that’s how I ended up in Rimbey,” he said.

McLean said he would have liked to stay on for one more year to make it an even 35-year career, but he said he knew deep down inside that the time had come to hang up the Red Surge and after three years in Rimbey, decided to step aside.

“I was fortunate enough to be the chief of police in my own Detachment for that experience before I left,” he added.

As for his favourite place during his career, McLean opted for Swift Current citing its ideal size as a small city and its relatively mild climate. It was where he found another of his true passions on top of working with SADD – performing in live community theatre.

As for his time with SADD, McLean said he relished in bringing the program to Rimbey and said it was the right place at the right time.

“We were really lucky here in Rimbey because the time was right and parents here are very involved in their kid’s lives and they were very concerned about the problems that are real today,” he said. “Drinking and driving has been around for a long time, but I honestly think that it’s less socially acceptable now then it was when I arrived here in 2005.”

He added that the commitment to the enforcement of drinking and driving laws in Rimbey will go on long after the end of his career and will be joined by drug issues as the top priorities for the local RCMP, adding that community involvement will be a key to its success.

“It makes it, maybe not easier, but it certainly makes it doable,” McLean said. “If you’ve got the community behind you, it’s easier to form the partnerships to get the things done that need to be done.”

As for the highlight of his career, McLean pointed east.

“I’ve had some really, really interesting work and had some very interesting file investigations. But for a highlight, I spent an afternoon in around 1992, when I drove Roy Romanow, the Premier of Saskatchewan, around the southern part of the province,” McLean said. “He didn’t want to sit in the back so he joined me up in the front seat. We talked about politics, laws, sports – it’s not very often that you get the opportunity to have that kind of one-on-one time with the premier of your province, I enjoyed that immensely.”

As for the force itself, McLean said with in spite of his limited education, the RCMP opened many doors that may have otherwise, never been attainable.

“With my education and my background, I got to do so many interesting things and was involved in so many interesting investigations that I can’t imagine how I ever would have got that kind of exposure in any other career,” he said. “But those opportunities are open to anyone who joins the RCMP.”

In light of the current drive underway by the RCMP to attract thousands of new recruits, McLean urged all young people to seriously consider a career with the national police force.

“I can seriously say that it’s not the job for everybody, but if you’re of the personality, I don’t think there’s a better occupation,” he said stressing the importance of both some sort of an education and life experience. “I would never discourage anyone from getting an education. We have so many members that have degrees and have been involved in other occupations before they come to us and our careers are so diverse, that everyone who has some kind of work experience or education in another field, will find something that they’ll realize is perfect for them.”

As for the future, McLean said he and his wife would be staying in Rimbey for the time being and in addition to caring for his father in Drayton Valley; they plan on seeing some of the eastern parts of Canada and possibly take some trips to New Zealand and Europe.

“We’re going to enjoy what the town and the world has to offer,” he said in closing.

Of note, McLean did receive his Grade 12 diploma in 1995, three months before his daughter graduated from high school.

Wire Service

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