A group of kids from summer camp screaming with joy as they played on the nearby playground set up a fitting sign-off for outgoing Oak Bay Police Chief Andy Brinton, who retired on Monday morning.
“It’s fitting that there are the voices of children playing, this is about community,” said new Deputy Chief Mark Fisher, who returns to Oak Bay, having previously acted as Oak Bay Police Chief from 2011 to 2014.
The outdoor ceremony minted new Oak Bay Police Chief Ray Bernoties, just before he and Brinton signed over the bearer of responsibility for the Oak Bay Police Department. It was a morning event that was borderline informal with the new chief’s family in the front row of the socially-distanced gathering.
“We call him Andy now,” Bernoties joked.
For Bernoties, it’s a promotion after 3.5 years as deputy chief in Oak Bay and 25 years with the RCMP before that.
“I’m so proud,” Bernoties said, getting a little emotional on Monday. “It’s easy to police when you love the community so much. Having my own kids here, with one at Willows, and one at Monterey, and through coaching [sports], and through my wife’s connections, it keeps me connected to the community.”
Fisher wasn’t in uniform on Monday (still waiting for a couple of pieces to arrive) but has been in the station to get acquainted before starting this week.
Expect to see Fisher on his bike. Cycling is a binding theme for Brinton, Fisher and Bernoties, who are avid cyclists. During his previous tenure, Fisher would mount his Oak Bay Police bike every Friday afternoon and use it as a vehicle to connect with the community.
Fisher spent 2.5 years in 2014 to 2016 as Officer in Charge of Nanaimo (chief) where he reported to Bernoties, who was Superintendent for Vancouver Island RCMP at the time. Fisher then spent two years as the Assistant Commissioner of RCMP for Saskatchewan.
“This is a great opportunity for me to come back to a place I know well,” Fisher said. “I know many of the members and have an even greater appreciation for the style of policing here, the level of impact you can have with the community and the level of support from the community.”
Brinton, 58, is off for his first adventure as a retiree with wife Jocelyne, who has also retired after a career in nursing, to bike the Kettle Valley Railway next week.
“My wife was in nursing almost as long as I was in policing and both of our careers are providing service, we just want to enjoy life a bit for ourselves,” said Brinton, who served 6.5 years in Oak Bay after a career with the RCMP in B.C. “We want to enjoy what Victoria has to offer, we fell in love with his area.”
A big piece of Brinton’s legacy is the current staff as he oversaw the hiring of about 15 officers. It is happenstance that more than half the staff turned over during his tenure. There are 27 positions on the force, but actually, only 23, as four are on secondment elsewhere (where they are externally funded).
“I hired [new members] with a philosophy that every person have a passion or interest that they can follow,” Brinton said. “We have members into training, into wellness and into working with youth. So I encourage them to do that on the job and at the end of the day we have an organization with all these aspects to it.”
That also included the hiring of several women officers, closing the gender gap. He also promoted two women to sergeant in the past year, Sheri Lucas and Sandrine Perry (they join Manny Montero, Rob Smith, Jim Hull, Mike Martin and Davinder Dalep).
“Many members have reached retirement age, some have left mid-career to pursue things we don’t have, and I don’t begrudge them that, just as we find members mid-career who come here,” Brinton said.