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New West police chief retires after a 34-year policing career

Chief Const. Dave Jansen embarks on life’s next chapter three decades with the New Westminster Police Department – including five years as chief.

Dave Jansen has closed the book on a 34-year policing career and is excited about embarking on the next chapter of his life.

June 28 was Jansen’s final day as chief constable of the New Westminster Police Department.

“All I ever wanted to be as a cop, and I am so incredibly thankful and lucky than New West gave me a chance,” he said. “And that's not just the city HR person that hired me, not the chief that hired me – it's a whole community that gave me a chance. This is my home. I live here. I've had an amazing career.”

Jansen said his job as a police officer in New Westminster afforded him the ability to live in the city, to meet his wife (a NWPD officer), and to raise his daughter in New West.

“New Westminster, as corny as it sounds, is really at the core,” he said. “There's something about this community – it sucks you in, and for all its quirkiness and craziness, you don't want to leave.”

Jansen is excited to embark on the next chapter of his life, which includes being a doting dad to his 11-year-old daughter whose final day in elementary school coincided with his retirement.

“We'll both go to new adventures together,” he smiled.

A dream come true

Jansen spent his early years in Surrey before his family moved to Salmon Arm when he was going into Grade 11. After completing high school, he immediately returned to the Lower Mainland where he pursued his goal of becoming a police officer.

“It was all I can ever remember that I really wanted to do – for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I very vividly remember my dad saying to me a young age: ‘Why do you want to be police officers so bad?’ And honestly, I didn't know.”

While police departments now compete for recruits and hire numerous recruits at a time, that wasn’t the case when Jansen was pursuing a career in policing.

“Back in those days, you applied everywhere. There were thousands of applicants for just one or two jobs,” he recalled. “I applied everywhere.”

After nearly getting hired by the Victoria Police Department, Jansen landed a job with the New Westminster Police Department in January 1990.

“I didn't really have any specific reason why New West,” he said. “But lucky for me, they gave me a chance.”

Jansen those early years being interesting days in New Westminster.

“It was different in a lot of ways, right? It was a really tough city, like really tough. Lots of bars,” he said. “It was fun place to be a young cop, it really was.”

A few years into his policing career, Jansen moved to New West with a roommate. Aside from a “really short stint” of buying a house in Surrey, New Westminster has been his home ever since.

During his time with the NWPD, Jansen has served in various roles, including patrol, the bike unit, the operational support unit, and the major crime unit. Along with being an accredited Team Commander with Gold Commander certification from the College of Policing in the U.K., he has earned several senior officer commendations and the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.

Promoted to sergeant in 2003 and to staff sergeant in 2006, Jansen took a secondment with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team in November 2007 and returned to the NWPD in 2009, when he was promptly promoted to inspector. As inspector, Jansen oversaw all three divisions of the New Westminster Police Department.

Looking back

Reflecting on this decades-long career in policing, Jansen said there are some cases that never leave you, particularly those related to the deaths of children.

“You cannot do this job without it at some level impacting you. There's nothing you can do. Nothing,” he said. “We ask young, incredibly intelligent, hardworking people to come into this profession and we put them in situations that within days that will change their lives. They will see things that are the most exciting things ever, but also some of the most horrific things you can imagine. I'm no different.”

Jansen said it took a lot of years for him to get to the stage where he recognized he needed to seek professional help and work through some of those experiences, but he believes younger members are much more open seeking assistance to help them deal with some of the things they see on the job.

Looking back on his career with the NWPD, Jansen said there are many positive experiences that he’ll never forget. That includes seeing people brought to justice for crimes committed, enjoying the camaraderie of colleagues, and taking part in events like the department’s soccer camp for kids.

“There's lots of really cool stuff; I don't even know where to begin. I remember so many times saying, it's like you've got a front row seat to life,” he said. “I've been on helicopters, planes, and hovercrafts – all these things that average person wouldn't get to do in their career, I get to do those things. It's a pretty exciting and rewarding profession but it comes with some baggage too.”

Chief challenges

When then chief constable Dave Jones retired from the NWPD in April 2019, Jansen was appointed acting chief constable. Following a national search, he was officially named police chief in June 2020.

Reflecting on his five years in the chief’s office, Jansen said three “big things” stand out: COVID-19, George Floyd, and the police budget.

As the chief in charge of the department when COVID began, Jansen said there was tremendous uncertainty about how to navigate through the financial and logistical challenges of the pandemic’s early days. With the union’s help, he said the department developed some “complete out-of-the-box” plans on ways of staffing the department and keeping its members safe.

 “Well, just after that, we get hit with, boom, George Floyd,” Jansen said. “And it seemed like overnight, the frontline members, especially, went from heroes to zeros. They were going to calls where people were just openly hostile towards them.”

While police reform was already being discussed, Jansen said those discussions accelerated following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by white police offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota in My 2020.

“We got a lot of feedback through George Floyd on things that people wanted to see changed so it led to a lot of really good conversations, a lot of tough conversations. But do you know what? We learned from it,” he said. “Those conversations are always tough to have, but they're usually beneficial at the end because a lot of good things come out of them.”

Jansen said the most stressful times in his career as chief related to the New Westminster Police Department’s 2021 budget.

“If you told me in January 1990, when I walked into the NWPD to be cop, that the most stressful thing in my career would be a budget dispute with the city, I would have thought you were crazy. But here I am,” he told the Record. “It came at the end of what we just been through with COVID and with George Floyd. And I just didn't expect it.”

The New Westminster police board had approved the NWPD’s 2021 provisional budget, when city council voted 4-3 in favour of sending the budget back to the board and asking it to submit a budget with a 0 per cent increase for 2021. In response, the police board unanimously supported a recommendation to “respectfully decline” city council’s request to cut police department’s budget; city council voted 5-2 in favour of the budget – preventing the police board and the city from having to ask the province to settle the matter.

The dispute left some employees wondering if they would still have jobs if the city didn’t approve an increase to the NWPD’s budget.

“The stress comes from those uncomfortable conversations that occurred, but also knowing that I've got a bunch of folks here that are looking to you for leadership, guidance, and support. And I'm doing my best, but it's all new to me also. We've never gone through that in the history of the NWPD,” Jansen said. “So, for me, it was the most stressful one. It ended up working out.”

Jansen believes “some positives” came out of that process, including more public meetings on the police budget and more budget meetings with council.

Retirement plans

While it is not uncommon for senior police officers to retire from one force and take a job with another, Jansen has other retirement plans.

“I plan to be the most obnoxious dad in the world because I'm going to be around all the time,” he laughed. “I’ve got the summer just to relax and enjoy my yard and my daughter and my wife. We did a big outside renovation a couple of years ago, so we'll just enjoy our backyard.”

Jansen, who turns 59 in a few months, said he has no plans to go back to work or go into politics (some have asked if that is in the plans), but he may volunteer on a board and help with his daughter’s lacrosse and soccer teams.

“That is all I have planned. Honestly, I have not applied for any jobs; I've not been looking,” he said. “I'm planning to retire, retire.”

Asked how he hopes he’ll be remembered by his colleagues at the police department, Jansen is quick to respond: “That I cared about them.”

“You have many focuses when you are chief, but I have to say my overriding focus when I took over this job was that I just wanted everyone to know that even if they didn't agree with what I did or how I went about it, that they knew at the core of it, I was doing what I thought was best for them and for the community,” he said. “I just want the members to know that I truly cared. Sometimes, caring means making tough decisions. Sometimes caring means having to be a disciplinarian. But overall, I hope that that's what is left with them.”