By Kalinowski, Tim on September 13, 2019.
Brilliant, innovative and sometimes controversial, Robert Davis took his last salute as Chief of Police for the Lethbridge Police Service at a special ceremony on Thursday at LPS headquarters.
Surrounded by his staff officers, civilian employees, Community Peace Officer and Watch Program representatives, as well as local and regional well-wishers of various stripes, an emotional Davis said being Chief of Police in Lethbridge the past four and a half years has been the most exciting time in his policing career.
“This has been one of the best jobs I have ever had,” he said. “I have loved it. It has been amazing. And I have learned so much since my first year in Lethbridge.”
Known for his creativity, his keenness to embrace new policing technologies, his emphasis on workplace mental health support and physical fitness, his advancement of female officers through the ranks, his close collaboration with other regional police services, and his restless energy, Davis put his stamp on the Lethbridge Police Service like few other police chiefs have done before.
Always eager to embrace innovation, Davis’s forceful pursuit of new and progressive ways of doing community policing sometimes ruffled feathers and stepped on toes.
His public support, for example, for harm-reduction services in the city in the face of a drug crisis, and his frequent assertion that the LPS “could not arrest its way out of the city’s drug problems,” made him an easy and frequent target for attacks on social media.
Change is never easy in any institution, and Davis’s emphasis on innovation also frequently put him at odds with the rank and file members of the Lethbridge Police Association, which accused him of using bullying and intimidation tactics to advance his progressive agenda.
This relationship with the LPA reached a boiling point when Davis advocated for, and eventually won, the authority to institute the enhanced Community Peace Officer program, which allowed non-union officers to join the LPS.
None of this seemed to phase him. As the flag lowered Thursday on his policing career in Lethbridge, Davis had only one message for whoever comes after him as Chief of Police.
“You have to stay the course,” he said. “You see these tactics being used across Canada to try to derail chiefs, and derail missions. They are tactics; accept them for what they are. We’re into year-one of a four-year business plan, bringing a new mission, vision and values. To whoever the new chief is, I would say stay the course and keep modernizing the police service, engaging the community and embracing the community when it wants to help.”
Davis will be moving on in his policing career from Lethbridge to Brantford, Ont., where he is once again set to take on the role of Chief of Police there.
“I have loved working here, but I am looking forward to getting back to the area I grew up in,” Davis said.
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