By COLLIN GALLANT on November 20, 2020.
Medicine Hat’s new police chief has roots in the Gas City, and he says he’s most looking forward to re-establishing himself in the community.
Mike Worden, who was raised here it the 1980s before leaving to start a 25-year policing career in Calgary, was hired this week to replace retiring chief Andy McGrogan.
He also arrives as police budgets are constrained and calls for police oversight are increasing.
“My first role is to understand the organization then start to look at those other issues,” Worden said after he was introduced to city council on Monday. “The most important thing is to really start to learn and listen to the membership, and the community, but to get some time inside.
“I’m not sure I can say ‘we’ yet, but we do some things very, very well.”
Worden, who moved to the Hat as a young child and graduated from Hat High, still has family in Medicine Hat, his parents and a sibling.
He plans to move to relocate in the new year with his wife, while an adult son is attending university.
Worden’s situation is as someone with an outside perspective, but local roots were described as the best of both worlds by police commission members who conducted a six-month committee hiring process that shortlisted and interviewed four candidates.
One immediate issue will be talks on a new police contract. The current four-year deal ends Dec. 31, and was only ratified when three-year-old talks were heading to arbitration.
As well, the province is updating the Police Act, and there is a widespread discussion about representation.
“We’re in interesting times for police forces across North America,” said police commission chair Sandt Redden. “Chief McGrogan has put us in a good spot, and Chief Worden will be able to carry that forward.”
Worden’s career includes lengthy time in the Calgary tactical unit and high ranking administrative positions, including human resources at the department that has 2,200 officers.
He is currently the superintendent in charge of Calgary’s South West division, which with 500 officers and a quarter-million residents is about four to five times larger than the Hat.
Worden said working with the 100-person department here will involve the ability for “fewer memos” and more face time with those on the force.
“I don’t want come in and make change for the sake of making change,”
“I hope they’ll get to know me and know my values, and we’re all working towards the goal of keeping Medicine Hat safe.”
When Worden takes up his post on Jan. 4, 2021, he will become the third of seven police chiefs since the 1980s to come from outside agencies.
McGrogan’s 12-year tenure began after the unexpected death of Gord Earl in 2007. Both men rose up the local ranks, as did chiefs Ray Palardy and Don Kyllo in the 1980s and 1990s.
Norm Boucher became chief in 2001 from a career in the RCMP and served until 2007 before retiring and eventually becoming mayor.
Chief Bill Spring also came from the RCMP when, at age 33, he took over the local force in 1993.