One quick look around Dean Jantzen’s office and you’ll get a good indication of the stories that have preoccupied much of his time in the last two-and-a-half years.
A file folder bearing the name Lindsay Buziak sits on a shelf, while newspaper clippings with headlines bearing such buzzwords as ‘police amalgamation’ are pinned to a bulletin board, alongside a crude sketch of a deer with an arrow in its hindquarters.
“The biggest challenge in this job is getting people to listen. That was really my goal when I tried to be lighter and a little more humanistic,” says Jantzen, 43, who’s been the spokesperson for the Saanich Police Department since June 2010. “Once you’ve attracted people’s attention through anecdotes or quirks or some humour, it’s that much easier to drive a message home; there’s that many more people listening.”
Early on in his stint as the department’s public information officer, Jantzen was advised to just be himself during press conferences and when talking to the public. He says that tip was invaluable in making mundane messaging on auto crime or break-and-enters a little less stuffy.
“It’s not supposed to be a comedy show all the time. There are lots of serious days and serious incidents and we have to communicate that. But the lighter side of policing is something I think we’ve missed over the years,” he says. “It’s not all doom and gloom, nor should it be.”
Jantzen’s relaxed, jovial personality shone during his weekly Tuesday morning press conferences. It was during one such gathering in May that Jantzen, through bouts of laughter, fielded ridiculous questions from journalists about two drunk and hungry UVic students who were later dubbed the Barbecue Chip Bandits.
“I think this experience shows you the whole other side of policing,” says Jantzen, who’s previously been part of Saanich’s street crimes unit and drug section, and the province’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
“Sometimes you can be insulated from things in your community when you work day-to-day patrol shifts. This job’s allowed me to enjoy different kinds of interactions with the community. … It gets you grounded again.”
But Jantzen has also the been the face of organization during tragic and serious incidents. These are the ones that, as a human and as a police officer, he says he’ll remember forever.
“Some of the more memorable experiences are the 300-kilometre-an-hour motorcycle caper, the Caddy Bay murder-suicide – that was sad, the Shannon Rogers case, a couple of Lindsay Buziak anniversaries,” he recalls.
“You end up being a lightning rod in this chair. The good goes with the bad, but all in all, I think I’m a better person for having done it.”
In his time as the face of the force, Jantzen helped the department in some of its forward-thinking endeavours, such as building a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, and playing an integral role in the development and publishing of the department’s ambitious strategic plan.
He says, however, what he enjoyed most his job was his interactions with Saanichites, leading to a greater appreciation for the community he serves.
“One of the great eye-openers was how generous (Greater Victoria) and community was. Whenever we put out sad luck or bad luck stories, inevitably we would get people coming around dropping off donations,” he says, noting an incident in 2011 when a Cops for Cancer donation box was stolen from the front counter of the police station. “We had a parade of people coming in donating $20s, $50s, $100s. … The people make this a great place to live, work and play.”
Jantzen’s shift as the department’s spokesperson ended last week. While he returns to patrol work, Sgt. Steve Eassie will take on the media relations role for the Saanich police.
As Jantzen fills a cardboard box with the newspaper clippings, drawings and personal effects he’s collected in his office since 2010, he says he anticipates Eassie’s biggest challenge will likely be the same one he faced: making sure the department doesn’t lose its voice.
“We put out notes and messaging about safe driving and not leaving anything in your vehicles and locking your vehicles – that’s a big part of this job. People tune you out when they hear it for the umpteenth time, but these things are still happening so we have to do those things to be heard,” Jantzen says.
As for the advice he leaves Eassie with before passing on the torch as face of the department? “I told him, ‘Be yourself.’ He’ll bring his own personality to the job that way. … It’s a lucky man who gets to speak for all the hard-working men and women in the department. It’s interesting and challenging, but what a great experience it’s been.”