Since she was a kid, Kirstin Stuart’s aunt said she should work for the Oak Bay Police Department.
In the first week of January, Stuart was officially sworn in as Oak Bay police’s newest hire. It’s made for one happy aunt, said Stuart, who moved here after nine years policing with York Regional Police in the suburbs of Toronto.
“My aunt always said great things about Oak Bay police, even before I ever thought about being a police officer,” Stuart said.
As a youth, Stuart’s family left Sooke for Newmarket, one of the nine municipalities that make up the Regional Municipality of York. She finished high school and graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa and started as a civilian with York Regional Police in 2008.
For three years Stuart worked in administration and as a coordinator of community events designed to build relationships between police and the diverse York population.
“It’s one of the most diverse populations in Canada,” Stuart said. “[As a civilian] we introduced policing to communities that included a lot of new Canadians, people who didn’t speak English and didn’t understand [the police’s role].”
Then in 2011, Stuart was hired as an officer.
It meant responding to the types of crimes that put York Regional Police in the lens of the national media, such as shootings and stabbings, but also dealing with tight-knit communities.
“There are small communities in York that are intense,” Stuart said. “Police aren’t always popular there. It’s why we were trying to engage in different ways. It’s fast-paced in York, you respond to a lot of calls of a wide variety, but also, the community is very tight, just like Oak Bay.”
Eventually, Stuart was partnered with a social worker on a mental health team that brought resources to vulnerable members of the community.
By that time her parents had left Newmarket and were back on Vancouver Island, this time in Nanaimo. She felt the call of the Island and finally last year started looking at options. It was the summer and Oak Bay police was running a hiring campaign.
Her skills working in the community made Stuart an attractive hire for the Oak Bay department, said Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties.
“She is passionate about community policing which made her a great fit for us and she has hit the ground running here in Oak Bay,” Bernoties said.
Stuart joins Const. Jen Berkley as two of four new officers that Oak Bay Police Department is hiring, with two more expected to be announced soon, said Bernoties.
“I look forward to the opportunity to make connections, to sit with people and hear their issues, and later to take time to follow up,” Stuart said. “I’d like it to come full circle and be able to help solve problems.”