After seven years, Terry Gillespie’s adventure in northern B.C. continues.
As the new Officer in Charge of the Terrace RCMP detachment come 2022, Gillespie will be moving further west with his family and bidding adieu to Smithers where he was the detachment commander since 2019.
During his time in the northwest, Gillespie says he’s had some “crazy adventures”.
“Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction,” he said about his experiences.
But before his adventures on land began, Gillespie worked as a commercial pilot in northern Ontario. Growing up, he always wanted to be a military pilot but his vision wasn’t good enough.
“I was looking for something adventurous… and commercial flying wasn’t quite the same as what I hoped flying fighter jets might be,” he said.
That keen sense of adventure persisted and when an opportunity presented with the RCMP, Gillespie thought that would be “kind of cool.”
Gillespie spent his early years on Vancouver Island where he completed high school and went to college in Calgary, Alta. After spending some time in Ontario, Gillespie moved back to B.C.
He started his career with the RCMP in 2006 and his first posting was with the Squamish detachment. That is also where he met his wife Kirsten. They moved to Burns Lake in 2014 and since then Gillespie has been enticed by the north, serving in some “really cool communities.” In 2016, Gillespie was posted to Haida Gwaii with the Queen Charlotte detachment.
“I could never have predicted what my career would have been like or where the last 15 years have taken me, It’s just been amazing,” he says, adding, “It’s a phenomenal job.”
People are a lot more friendlier here in the north, he says.
“I know a lot more of my neighbours up here than I did when I was living down south. Every post we’ve been to, Burns Lake, Haida Gwaii, Smithers, people have welcomed us with open arms and we’ve met some really good people.”
That said, there have been challenges too that comes with policing in the northwest.
“The great distance between a lot of the communities we serve presents challenges in service delivery and trying to make sure that we reach those even if they live a fair way out of town,” he said.
With most detachments in the north being generally smaller than those on the Lower Mainland, there’s also the challenge of providing the same high level of policing services with limited resources, he says.
Over the years of his career, Gillespie has also observed that the role of the police has continuously evolved.
While the primary role of police, historically, was the enforcement of the Canadian Criminal Code and, investigation of crimes, now it also includes a mental health component.
“The role has definitely evolved in the last 100 years and continues to evolve every day. And yeah, now we do find ourselves with, roughly 60 per cent of our time being involved with non-criminal stuff.”
So keeping up with the evolution of policing there is a lot of work involved in making sure that they deliver what the community expects of them.
And that is why he is looking forward to take on the challenge and working with community partners with his next posting in Terrace, especially since the city has been reporting an increase in social issues pertaining to mental health, addiction, homelessness and crime.
“I guess you can say it’s a good thing that a lot of the issues that Terrace faces aren’t unique to Terrace and is apparent in other parts of the province and the northwest,” he says, adding, he looks forward to bringing his experience of dealing with these problems in other communities
Gillespie is eagerly awaiting his chance to engage with stakeholders.
“It is very exciting for myself personally, working in a detachment the size of Terrace, having a large system, a crime reduction unit and the GI (general investigation) unit and a lot more resources to be able to take on some of the challenges.”
Now a staff sergeant, Gillespie is in the process of becoming a commissioned officer, which could take up to nine months. After that is completed he will be promoted to the rank of inspector.