Deputy Chief Const. Bob Downie was today named the new chief of the Saanich Police Department.
Downie, 53, began his career with Saanich in 1982.
“What drew me to it? At the time it was really about making a difference in the community. I thought this was going to be a fun and exciting job, a career that will get you through your entire working life,” he said. “This is a job where you do make a difference and you do get to help the community you serve.”
Downie rose through the ranks, operationally and administratively, working as a lead investigator on the high-profile 1997 Reena Virk murder investigation, as well as helping create the first Professional Standards Office within the department.
He was promoted to deputy chief in August 2009.
“(Downie has) really made a commitment over the years to prepare himself for this position, in terms of education opportunities he’s pursued,” said Mayor Frank Leonard, chair of the Saanich police board. “He’s got well-rounded experience, be it in administration or the operational sides of policing. We’re very pleased to have somebody like that within our ranks and look forward to him taking the position.”
In his 31-year career with Saanich, Downie has received the Police Exemplary Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada, the Police Honours Medal for Meritorious Service, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
“It sounds trite at the end of the day, but it’s all about making the difference. I eat and breathe this stuff,” Downie said.
Leonard says the department purposefully implements a succession plan for being able to promote from within, though the police board did consider external competition, as well.
“We have a culture of growing our own. We do management coaching so that we want to encourage people throughout the ranks to prepare for senior management positions,” Leonard said. “We did scan the external market in terms of if we were to post externally what is in the marketplace, and we found that we really have such a strong pool of talent within the organization that we view to be our best option.”
Downie says he’s already seeing future leaders of the department still very young in their policing careers.
“I can look down and see constables who can be chief one day – these folks are committed to serving, I see that in the work they do,” he said.
A search will begin next month to fill Downie’s current position as deputy.
Downie will take over from outgoing Chief Const. Mike Chadwick on Feb. 1, 2014. Chadwick has been chief since August 2009.
“Mike’s been a great chief. People have asked, ‘What are you going to change?’ We don’t have to change anything. Mike’s been able to lead a wonderful team. The vision we’re following is a united vision, and we’re going to carry on down that path,” Downie said.
Downie is a longtime Saanich resident. He is married and has two teenage sons.