Three long-term Oak Bay police officers are hanging up their hats, while three new members come in to replace them.
After 28 years with the department, and five years with the RCMP before that, Sgt. Don Symes is retiring from the force. Symes filled a variety of roles during his career, including working in the detectives office and on patrol.
“He was well-respected within the department and the community,” said Chief Const. Mark Fisher.
Also calling it a day after long careers are Const. Bill Bellwood and Const. Art Goodwin, who started their careers together and will now be finishing their careers together. Bellwood has already retired, while Goodwin will be saying goodbye toward the end of June.
Bellwood and Goodwin went through RCMP training together in the early 1970s. Their respective careers took them in different directions, but nearly nine years ago they both ended up joining the Oak Bay Police.
One of the new officers picking up the slack is Alex Omoding, who 17 years ago, came to Victoria from Uganda, where both his parents continue to live. Omoding worked in all aspects of African safari tours for years before accepting a job at the Fairmont Empress hotel, where he worked until 2008. It was there, after being hand-picked to serve Queen Elizabeth during her 2002 Golden Jubliee visit to the capital city, that Omoding took particular interest in the security surrounding the monarch and decided to fulfill his long-standing desire to be a police officer.
“The first person I met moving to Canada in 1996 was an RCMP officer and I thought ‘Wow … It was always in the back of my mind,’” he said.
Omoding began with the West Shore RCMP in 2009 and left in February to join the Oak Bay force. Brian Lucas, who trained Omoding on the West Shore, also came to Oak Bay shortly thereafter.
“We share a lot in common. He has more experience than me policing, but I’m more mature, older than he is, so we kind of balance each other out. … I’m more senior than him now – in Oak Bay.”
Forty-two-year-old Omoding can identify on several levels with Nanaimo-raised Lucas, who also came to policing after working in hospitality.
Lucas, 10 years Omoding’s junior, filled a number of roles on the West Shore over his five-year run at the post, including co-ordinating the detachment’s auxiliary constable program and general duty policing. He is also a member of the Vancouver Island Tactical Unit. Lucas, originally from Campbell River, recently purchased a home in Oak Bay with his wife Christie and his two-year-old son Jack.
Also new to the Oak Bay department is Eric Payne, now finishing up a nine-year stint with the Victoria Police Department, where he worked in patrol division and the integrated mobile crisis response team. Prior to his policing career, Payne worked as a helicopter pilot for 20 years which included flying border patrols in the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait in the early 1990s.
Growing up in Victoria, Payne would often spend time at his grandparent’s house near Willows Beach, the house Payne now lives in. Payne has also worked with the Oak Bay Volunteer Services since 2003. Payne starts with Oak Bay on June 24.
“It’s been good timing and an opportunity to attract some younger members, which is good for us and the community,” Fisher said of the changeover. “They’re a little more junior in service, but come with life experience to the department.”
“Coming from Uganda, where police are hated and there’s a lot of corruption, this is a place where if you do the job well, it’s very rewarding,” Omoding said. “I like to see the differences that I make.”