By Lyonel Doherty, Times Chronicle
Underneath the bulky RCMP uniform, Cst. Shawn Ingham is like any unassuming guy next door.
He’s human. Like everyone else.
The 17-year veteran of the RCMP is glad he came to Oliver from Prince George. It’s a slower pace and people say “hi” when they pass you on the street.
Like many kids in the early 1970s, Ingham grew up watching the American cop show Adam 12.
“I thought they were pretty cool, doing the right thing,” he said, remembering how Pete and Jim would “catch the bad guys.” That no doubt planted the law enforcement seed in his mind.
Ingham grew up admiring police officers, but it was more than just bringing criminals to justice.
His lacrosse coach was a police officer who came to practice wearing his uniform. His football coach was also an officer.
“They were doing more in the community than just enforcing the law. I really like that aspect of it.”
Before becoming a Mountie, Ingham was a machinist for 12 years, working in a shop where computer technology slowly planned its takeover.
One day he was playing hockey with a group of police officers when a recruiter suggested he apply for the RCMP. He subsequently took the test and did well, and before you know it, they called him up for depot training in 2005.
“They try to put a lot of stress on you because you may be exposed to that in the field,” Ingham said. “They throw a lot of different things at you because when you’re a police officer a lot of different things can happen all at once and you have to prioritize that.”
Ingham said a tough part of training was being away from family.
“It was rough. My dad died when I was in depot . . . that was a tough time for sure. He didn’t see me graduate but I know that he was proud.”
His father was a reserve RCMP officer a long time ago.
Fresh out of training, Ingham was stationed in Fort St. John in the heyday of the oil and gas industry.
“It was booming. Everything was going 150 per cent . . . it was hectic with a lot of stuff coming at you. It was sink or swim.”
Ingham said policing keeps you sharp and on edge dealing with different scenarios every day. But he is quick to point out that the good outweighs the bad.
While social media throws in a new mix to the recipe, police work
police work remains largely the same as it was years ago, the officer said. But he cautions people:
“You can say what you want on social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Ingham acknowledged there are some misconceptions about the RCMP.
“We put on our shoes the same way as everyone else . . . under all this (gear)
I am a person.”
The officer said a lot of times people he encounters don’t recognize him in civilian clothing the next day.
Ingham said police must set a good standard, and when they don’t, there are consequences.
“If we drive too fast we are given a ticket. I know lots of police officers who who have given other police officers tickets.”
One time he was driving 111 km/h in a 100 km zone. An officer stopped him and issued him a warning.
Speaking of traffic offences, Ingham said the number of people who drive while prohibited in Oliver far exceeds any other detachment he has worked at.
“There are more drivers here that are prohibited than I have ever encountered. I can’t explain it, but it seems like it’s daily.”
Last week he attempted to pull over a prohibited driver but the fellow “took off!” Ingham said he did not engage in a pursuit because the risk wasn’t worth it.
The officer agrees that policing has become more hazardous today.
“With the number of guns on the street and the drugs that are out there, it creates that unpredictability.”
Ingham said he has noticed a shift in accountability. He noted, when he first started policing, people accepted the consequences when they did something wrong. But today, it seems like they try to avoid the consequences and carry on that same troublesome behaviour, he said.
Ingham suspects it’s not just a lack of respect for the law, it’s the way sentencing has changed over the years.
He said the best the RCMP can do is present all the facts to Crown counsel, at which point it’s out of their hands.
As one can imagine, Ingham has responded to all manner of calls during his career. But none are more concerning to him than missing children.
“An innocent kid, that’s number one. If you have a missing kid, you won’t find anything else that garners more attention from every member. You drop everything. If I’m on a traffic stop or whatever, it’s like, ‘see ya,’ and you go and try to find that missing kid.”
One of Ingham’s most memorable calls is a hostage-taking incident involving a three-year-old girl. Being a hostage negotiator, Ingham was brought in to speak to the suspect who was holding his daughter hostage.
“He was not a police friendly fellow, but I was able to gain his trust, and in the end, he only wanted to be arrested by me.”
Ingham is good at dealing with stress on the job. He has different “suitcases” that he piles stuff into.
“This is my job. This is what I have to do. When I go home, my job there is to be a husband and father. I pull the curtain on one (job) and do the other.”
Ingham said his message to the community is to work together to make it a safe town.
“If we can be respectful of one another and treat others the way you want to be treated, we’d have a pretty good little town.”
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