Deputy Chief Darren Lench of the Central Saanich Police Service became emotional when he heard the approaching siren while standing outside the department.
“I was thinking ‘I wonder if it that is for me’ and I got pretty emotional when that first police car came around the corner,” he said. “I never could have thought of a better send off than that.”
A total of 15 vehicles representing Greater Victoria police and fire departments paraded past Lench on Jan. 6, his last day of work after five years as deputy chief in Central Saanich and 35 years with the RCMP.
Well-wishers during this drive-by-salute to Lench’s service included the respective chiefs of the Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay police departments, all uniformed members of the Central Saanich Department as well as civilian members, and several members of the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP detachment.
“It was just a wonderful reflection of the long, rewarding career I have had in policing, both with the RCMP and on the municipal side,” said Lench when asked about what the parade meant to him.
This recognition of Lench by his professional peers also had a personal dimension, as Lench’s wife Sgt. Erin Lench and her policing partner with the RCMP joined the parade. She even handed her husband a bouquet of flowers.
“My daughter, as the procession was going by, also FaceTimed me and wished me luck as well,” said Lench. “It was an experience that I will always remember and cherish and just a wonderful way to finish my career in policing.”
It was a career that in many ways had come full circle on the Saanich Peninsula.
Growing up in Sidney, Lench’s career in policing started after attending a career fair at Parkland Secondary School at the age of 13. “I was focused on the RCMP from there,” he said. From 1978 to 1980, he served as an auxiliary constable at the local detachment, while waiting to join the RCMP, departing for training in Regina shortly after his 20th birthday.
After graduating in May 1981, Lench spent the next 14 years all over Alberta before serving in northern British Columbia, followed by a seven-year-long posting in Ottawa at RCMP headquarters. “I then spent the last 10 years [with the RCMP] in the Lower Mainland in different senior management positions and then came over here to be the deputy chief in 2015,” he said. “It has just been an absolutely wonderful career and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
A very happy retirement to our Deputy Chief Derren Lench! After 40 years in policing, and 5 at CSPS, it's well deserved!— cspoliceservice (@cspoliceservice) January 6, 2021
A big thank you to @vicpdcanada, @SaanichPolice, @OakBayPolice, @SidneyRCMP, @WestshoreRCMP, & @CSaanichFire for joining us in a Covid-friendly tribute. #csaan pic.twitter.com/zOvNRbg8TU
During these stops (which took Lench to 14 different communities by his count), he performed a wide range of duties. They included regular detachment policing, working with First Nations, highway patrol, plain-clothes policing, management, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), policy work and forensics.
In fact, Lench was part of a month-long inter-disciplinary mission to help identify victims of the Kosovo War in 1999.
Looking back, Lench said the biggest changes in policy work include advances in technology, officer and public safety, and requirements to support criminal charges. “It’s become more challenging,” he said. “It takes a lot more to put together what is required to have charge approval.” Social media has changed the media environment in which police operate and the costs of putting officers into the field has also gone up, he added.
Overall, police work has become more sophisticated over the years. “Great work was being done. I just think that we have more investigative techniques at our fingertips that can enhance an investigation.” At the same time, the expectation of accountability has also gone up. “You need to enhance and maintain our public trust and confidence,” he said. “We have to be accountable for the work we do [and] the finances we utilize to carry out that policing.”
One aspect near and dear to Lench is community policing and serving as deputy chief in Central Saanich over the last five years has allowed him to work on community policing issues.
“It is a smaller area, there is more interaction between the police and the community, more engagement with the district staff, the police board, and then community members,” he said. “I was able to work with community members on putting together strategies on how to look at enforcement on the water or other concerns like derelict vessels. So that part I really enjoyed, almost getting back to grassroots. That’s the part I enjoyed the most, where you can actually see the rewards of the work that you are doing.”
After spending much of his last day packing up his office, Lench will take some leave until his official retirement.
So what are Lench’s plan for retirement?
“I’m going to see if I have any kind of golf game,” he said, with a chuckle, adding his wife will also likely expect him to do more of the cooking.
“I just plan to relax. I enjoying golfing and hiking and running and taking the dog for walk.”
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