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Policing all in the family for Victoria clan

New VicPD recruit Ben Sawyer the latest in a line that includes mom, dad and grandfather
New Victoria police recruit Ben Sawyer reads his oath during the swearing-in ceremony officiated by Chief Const. Del Manak at VicPD headquarters Thursday. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Coming from a family of police officers, Ben Sawyer felt early on that donning the uniform and helping keep his community safe was his calling.

The 20-year-old achieved his goal, when he was sworn in as a new Victoria Police Department constable Thursday along with Ryan Logan and Anastasiya Vasylyeva in front of a room full of family members, fellow officers and VicPD staff.

“I’ve always known that this is the path I wanted to go down,” said Ben, a 2015 Claremont grad. “But I guess I really started when I got out of high school and set out a plan that I wanted to take and I sat down talked to my parents and talked to people to figure out which way would be the best way to get to my goal. It all worked out great for me and I’m extremely excited about it.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps opened the proceedings by talking about the important role police officers play in the communities of Victoria and Esquimalt.

Ben called it a “true honour” to join the VicPD, where his father, Tom Sawyer, built a 29-year career before retiring a year and a half ago.

Mom, Jana Sawyer, is still on active duty with the Saanich Police, and joined Tom and their two other sons in congratulating and supporting Ben on the day.

“I’m both nervous and excited for him,” Tom said after the ceremony. “I was 22 when I started and Ben’s 20, so all the excitement is coming back for me.”

Both mom and dad said their middle son is a good listener who asks questions and takes advice well.

Jana, who has spent the past 25 years with the Saanich department after nine years with the RCMP, and whose own father was a career RCMP officer in Manitoba, said she’s “not really nervous,” for her son.

Asked whether her experiences as a police officer give her more or less comfort about Ben joining the force, she said a mix of both.

“It’s Victoria; maybe if he was going to L.A. or another area [I’d be more worried],” she said.

Ben appreciated the fact so many other officers and staff were on hand to witness the swearing in ceremony.

He added that it’s comforting knowing there’s so many policing veterans, many of whom he’s heard about over the years from his parents, who are there to support young officers.

Tom said policing has changed in many ways since he was a fresh recruit, in terms of technology available, the transparency of operations and the prevalence and acknowledgement of mental health issues. “It’s different, but the same. You’re still dealing with people and providing that service, but a lot of the aspects of the job are more complicated at the same time.”

Jana’s hope for her middle son is to stay true to himself and try not to get jaded by the things he sees and experiences.

“You’re dealing with people when they’re in their worst of times and it can create a cynicism, but in reality we know most people are functional and well. You’ve got to remember to tell yourself, ‘that’s not the reality, that’s not the world,’” she said.

Chief Const. Del Manak said it’s always a special day when new recruits come on board, especially those with a keen desire to serve their community. The fact that the three newcomers’ values align with the “community first” focus of the organization leaves him encouraged that they will do a great job, he added.

Logan, whose father is with the New Westminster Police Department, joins VicPD having already spent time in the Canadian Armed Forces, attaining the rank of sergeant. Vasylyeva has experience working with the VicPD in its reserves program.

All three are anxious to move into this new phase of their careers.

“I’m excited for it all to start up,” Sawyer said. “It’ll be a lot to take in and I know I’ve got a lot to learn, but I can’t wait to get going.”

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