Mike Chadwick, mere minutes into his new job as a Saanich police officer in the mid-’70s, ripped his pants climbing out of a police car. He went on to become chief of the department.
It was June 2, 1975. Just as the afternoon patrol began their shift at the Saanich Police Department, officers were called to a hostage situation.
Twenty-year-old Chadwick jumped into the passenger seat of a police car and rushed to the crime scene, before having a chance to introduce himself to his new brothers and sisters.
“I remember (my partner parked) the car off to one side of the house and I couldn’t get out. We’d been trained not to get out of that side of the car if your car was towards a threat,” he recalls. “So I had to climb over to the other side and I ripped my pants catching it on the equipment box. I’m thinking, ‘Oh great, I’ve only got two pairs.’”
Chadwick, now 59, laughs about his first day on the job. In recent years he’s been more concerned about running the police department than how many pairs of work pants he has.
Promoted to Chief Constable in 2009, Chadwick is set to retire tomorrow (Jan. 31) after a 38-year career with the department.
“The biggest change (in policing) is the technology, for sure. When I first started there were no portable radios that were readily available to members. We basically had two giant portable radios that had huge whip antennas and they weighed about five pounds each. They held a charge for maybe an hour and a half, and nobody would take them out because it was sketchy whether it would work or not,” he says. “We had two computer printers in the entire building, and that was it. Your notebook was your best friend.”
Responsible for the more administrative side of the police department in recent years, Chadwick says he came in to the job as Chief Constable during tough financial times.
“The one thing that (my predecessor) Derek Egan told me when I came in as chief was, ‘I regret that when I’m leaving, I’m leaving just as the impacts of the ’08 economic downturn are going to be hitting you hard over the next few years,’ and he was spot on,” Chadwick says. “It hit municipalities hard. We’re very well supported by our board and our council, but there’s been inevitable impacts beyond their control. … It’s made for some creative solutions to financial issues”
He points to the joint police-fire acquisition of a $1-million mobile command unit, expected to arrive this year, paid for almost entirely by funds collected through traffic fine revenues.
“It’s a creative way to provide a piece of, I would argue, essential equipment to Saanich and the region,” he says.
Despite dealing with financial complications behind the scenes, Chadwick’s tenure as chief has been relatively smooth.
Even the higher profile incidents involving his department – the unsolved murder of Lindsay Buziak and the civil trial in the police shooting death of Majencio Camaso – he inherited from Egan’s time as chief.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what we can be doing to solve that case,” Chadwick says of Buziak’s February 2008 murder. He points to a photo of Buziak taped to the side of his computer. “I keep that up there to remind me to continue to make enquiries and to reassure (Buziak’s family) that everything that can be done to solve that file will be done. That’ll be the one regret: that I’ll be retired and that file is still open.”
On the Camaso civil trial, which initially found a Saanich officer “grossly negligent” in the July 2004 shooting death, Chadwick says he’s relieved that the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that ruling.
“The frustration I’ve had, personally, is that it’s taken so long for many aspects of that file to have been resolved,,” Chadwick says. “I think that (the Court of Appeal overturning that decision) was justice overall.”
Looking back on his own accomplishments, Chadwick says one of his proudest moments was helping get a conviction in the January 1987 murder of Marguerite Telesford. While to this day her body has not been found, Chadwick and his fellow detectives solved the crime the following year using forensic evidence.
“That was very satisfying,” he says. “There was a real sense of having done our job appropriately and properly, and resolving that for the family.”
It’s that concept of serving and protecting the community that initially attracted Chadwick to a policing career.
“When I was a kid growing up in Duncan, my dad had a business next to the RCMP detachment there,” he says. “I got to know a lot of the guys. I just liked the way they were, I liked hearing why they got into policing and the difference they got to make.
“I thought it would be a great career if I could actually make a difference in people’s lives.”
Replacing Chadwick as Chief Constable is deputy chief Bob Downie. Moving up from inspector to the deputy chief role is Scott Green.
Chadwick says he hopes retirement will be filled with travels, pursuing his passion for photography and spending time with his family. He and his wife, Sue, have five children and three grandchildren (with a fourth on the way).
“The folks I’ve worked with are what have made it such a great place. And I can’t say enough about them. If it hadn’t been the case I probably wouldn’t have worked 38 years,” he says. “I’ve loved this job. Not a day has gone by that I’ve not wanted to come in to work. I’ve never regretted one minute of it.”