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People You Should Know in New West: Sgt. Andrew Leaver

From drug cartel wars to community engagement: Meet the New West Police Department’s new media spokesperson
Sgt. Andrew Leaver is the New Westminster Police Department's new media liaison officer.

Sgt. Andrew Leaver is the new face of the New Westminster Police Department.

As the sergeant in the community engagement unit, he oversees crime prevention initiatives, as well as the volunteer and reserve constable programs. He was transferred to the newly formed community engagement unit in February 2023, where he’s also taken on the role of media relations officer.

“I'd love the community to know the good work that we're doing. There's a lot of work that happens within these walls that the community isn't always aware of, so I can see my role as one of being to inform our city about the role of the police and what we do,” he said. “Growing up, that's not something I was even remotely aware of, and I embrace this opportunity to be able to get out there and say, ‘We've done all this good work.’”

A childhood in Colombia

Leaver was born and raised in South America in the midst of the drug cartel wars. At that time, Leaver said Colombian cities were very unsafe and police corruption was rampant.

“That's why policing never really was an option for me, growing up there. There's no relationship between the police and the community,” he said. “The army, the military, would take over everything. So I never really knew the police; they weren't part of my life.”

When he was a teenager, Leaver moved to Canada with his parents and brother. Life in Canada was a bit of a culture shock (in Colombia it wasn’t safe to walk to school, as an example) but it also changed his view of policing.

“Moving to Canada and seeing the positive relationships that the police can have with the community and the different role of the police play here, completely changed my mindset,” he said.

Why policing?

Although policing wasn’t an option while Leaver was growing up in Colombia, he had considered a career in the law.

“If I wanted to be able to effect some change about the drug problem, I was going to be a lawyer and I was going to prosecute all these issues,” he recalled. “Coming here, I got to see a lot more exposure to what the police do, and then I actually got a job with Border Services as kind of an introduction. It was like: this is what I want to do.”

The road to the NWPD

After graduating from high school, Leaver took courses in a number of subjects, including criminology, eventually earning a marketing degree from Kwantlen Polytechnique University. His introduction to law enforcement came with a job at Canada Border Services.

“It's really interesting stuff because that also took me back to my roots,” he said. “In Border Services, I did a lot of drug enforcement. Some of my proudest drug files come from Border Services.”

After working with Canada Border Services for six years, Leaver joined the Transit Police in 2013.

“It was very proactive, multiple person contacts in a day,” he said. “I'm a people person, so being able to talk to people in all walks of life along the transit system was right up my alley.”

Why New Westminster Police Department?

Leaver had always been interested in the investigative side of policing, an interest that drew him to New Westminster.

“I always knew that I wanted to work here,” he said.

A small department covering a small geographical area, but having the workload and issues of a big city were among the reasons Leaver wanted to work in New West.

“It’s a small city with big city issues,” he said.

Leaver said there are so many opportunities for officers within the New Westminster Police Department, as well as the ability to take secondments with other agencies.

“You can take your career wherever you want to go within a small department where everybody still knows your name,” he said. “I worked federally, like I say, with Border Services. And I knew that being a part of that big operation was not my style. I wanted something where it had more of a family feel.”

And that’s just what Leaver has found during his time on the job.

“In New West, you really get to know the people in town that you're working with, whether that be the vulnerable population or business owners or people that work at city hall,” he said. “And having that relationship with the police and the people in the community was something that I enjoyed. Because at Transit, we just go from one city to the next along the transit lines.”

A range of roles

Leaver joined the New Westminster Police Department in 2016, working in patrol for around a year-and-a-half and the Major Crimes Unit for three-and-a-half years. He was a corporal in the Street Crime Unit for almost a year, before being appointed acting sergeant of Prevention Services in early 2022 and formally promoted to the sergeant rank in June 2022.

In February, Leaver became the department’s new media relations officer, taking over from Sgt. Justine Thom.

“I am here to do the best job that I can for the people in this city,” he said. “And I'm here to give them the clarity and the information that I can.”

Increasingly, the New Westminster Police Department connects to the community through social media, primarily Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“It keeps us relevant to the majority of the people in our city,” Leaver said. “If we're going to communicate with them, we can't have them all walk through these doors, but we can go to them through their phones. And I think it's safe to say most people have smartphones and have access to social media, so that's a great way to be able to reach them.”

A punny guy?

Folks who follow the NWPD on social media may have caught Leaver’s post on Valentine’s Day.

“I enjoy a good laugh,” he said. “And the thing with puns are for the most part, it's absolutely good clean humor. We all need a laugh every now and then, and if we can enjoy one together with just a little bit of wordplay, I'm in.”

In the first year of the Valentine’s Day pun posts, Leaver came up with the New West-focused jokes on his own. Soon, members of the public were sending in suggestions.

“We've done it two or three years. It didn't start out to be a thing, but it became one because, after we did it the first year, the public were sending in ideas. So I thought well, we're going to do this next year and use these ideas that people are sending in. If we can't use humour from within the city, then come on – we have to. So I love it,” he said. “It’s all this humor that really only local people will understand, and I love that.”

Putting down roots in the NWPD

Leaver has never regretted his decision to become a police officer, and he hopes to continue to make his presence felt at the NWPD.

“I am an ambitious person, but I also am a product of what I think is this environment,” he said. “When I came here, it was because I wanted to be a part of this department, and I wanted to put down my roots here. I'm going to hope to be able to be carrying the flag for this department for a long time.”