The best move Nova Scotia native Reg Burgess ever made professionally was taking a cut in pay as a loans manager for Scotiabank in Halifax to join the RCMP.
That was 35 years ago as the superintendent of the Vernon-North Okanagan detachment winds down his successful law enforcement career on March 19.
From the small fishing hamlet of Southwest Port Mouton, about 160 kilometres from Halifax, Burgess graduated from Acadia University with a business administration degree. He worked for five Scotiabank branches in his home province.
“Young and single, I was working as a banker and my roommate was a police officer,” said Burgess, 60. “He recruited me to play on various sports teams, then recruited me to join the force. I’m very happy I did.”
Upon graduation from the RCMP depot in Regina, Burgess was sent west and he has spent his entire career in B.C.
He began in Richmond, spent time at small detachments in Alexis Creek, Tumbler Ridge and Texada Island before transferring to Kelowna. Burgess also worked in Lake Country and for the southeast district headquarter in Kelowna before taking over the Vernon-North Okanagan detachment, his final posting.
Burgess has been a general duty and plain clothes officer, a court liaison, worked in fraud and commercial crime, community policing and has been a detachment commander in Texada Island, Lake Country and Vernon.
“It’s been a demanding but very rewarding job,” he said. “I’m leaving feeling proud and satisfied I’ve done my best to do good work in a great police force.”
Arriving in Vernon, the local detachment was, administratively, integrated with the smaller detachments in the North Okanagan, but not operationally.
Whereas there would be one officer assigned to a community, Burgess changed the working model where four or five officers would be available per shift to cover the detachment area.
“I consider the North Okanagan model one of my successes,” said Burgess. “There was a lot of resistance to it but we’ve seen a lot of success with it, and it provides better service to the North Okanagan.”
Asked about some of his most memorable cases while in Vernon, Burgess said, “We have a lot of serious crime, a lot of unusual crime. Some of the best cases I can’t comment on, and there are the ones where we know we prevented a possible murder or grievous bodily harm.
“I came in at the tail end of the Greeks investigation, and we did very good police work on the Armstrong murder of Taylor (Van Diest). There have been a lot of highlights, a lot of interesting work here.”
Married with two adult children who have settled in B.C., Burgess and his wife plan to enjoy retirement in their fifth wheel and see North America.
He also plans, upon his return from his travels, to engage in his hobbies such as carpentry, woodworking and gardening.
Insp. Jim McNamara will take over the Vernon-North Okanagan detachment on an interim basis.