B.C.’s top cop has strong ties to the Okanagan-Shuswap, and to the RCMP.
Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens has relatives who reside in Mara.
“My great grandparents settled in Mara in the early 1900s and my great grandmother, 99, still resides there,” said Callens in an interview from his Vancouver officer. “My parents retired back to the farm, as has my uncle.
“My dad was an RCMP member for 35 years primarily in Saskatchewan, Ottawa, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba. His brother, my uncle, also served 35 years in Saskatchewan and B.C. and my grandfather was a member of the B.C. provincial police until 1950 when the RCMP took over provincial duties.”
Callens, who was in Vernon recently as part of a whirlwind 36-hours that saw him speak to a sociology class at UBC Okanagan, spent five years assigned to Kamloops from 1997 to 2002, as well as Canada’s largest detachment, Surrey, for another five years.
But it’s while he was stationed in one of Canada’s smallest detachments – Wells, near Barkerville – that Callens realized the significance of maintaining positive relationships with the community.
“That allows us to deliver our police service in the most efficient and effective way possible,” said Callens, who has spent 26 years with the RCMP. “Regardless of how big or how small the community is, the support enables us to do our job.”
And he said there was no better example of that than the recent investigation into an Armstrong teenager’s murder, which resulted in an arrest last month.
“I can’t overstate the significance of the 1,250 tips we received from the public and how significant that was in helping us close the deal on the case,” said Callens.
On the job now for three months, Callens said his No. 1 mandate is accountability, and that there are two sides to that equation.
“One is our transparency to the public in terms of professional conduct and meeting standards, that’s extremely important to me,” he said. “The other side that’s equally important is to demonstrate a return on the investment in policing, and getting value for the dollars invested in public safety.”
Callens has also vowed to gain back the public’s confidence in the RCMP when it comes to the organization’s professional conduct by members, and also publicly addressed a number of cases of alleged gender-based harassment within the RCMP.
“I realize we must make changes to ensure a respectful workplace for our employees,” said Callens in a news release.
“My view is that if we create the systems and opportunities that allow people to come forward without fear of retribution, and ensure those dealing with the complaints have the necessary training, we will be in a much better position to deal with individuals and more broadly the underlying issues.”