Oak Bay police Const. Jennifer Gibbs walks down Oak Bay Avenue with interim Chief Derek Egan. The acting department head would like to see a return to police foot patrols in the village.

Retired Saanich police chief takes temporary post in Oak Bay

There’s a new sheriff in Oak Bay – at least for the next six months.

Retired Saanich police chief Derek Egan is running Oak Bay’s police department, until a new chief is hired to replace former Chief Const. Ron Gaudet, who retired Jan. 14.

Egan retired 18 months ago after 35 years with the Saanich department. With only one other non-union manager on the 26-member Oak Bay force – Dep. Chief Kent Thom (who is in the running for the chief’s job) – Egan says his job is to make sure the work gets done.

“I want to do it and do it to a high standard,” he says.

Egan, 62, has a Masters degree in leadership and training and has been to the Middle East eight times in the past 10 years to teach policing to forces there, most recently Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Oak Bay, he says, is fortunate in that its citizens respect and trust its police force. But he thinks more could be done to reinforce that perception.

Oak Bay officers have a lot of time in which to carry out their duties, meaning they can take extra care with residents who are the victims of property crime, the most common type of crime in the municipality, he says. Not only can officers attend to calls, they can spend time with victims dealing with resulting trauma. They could also be making contact with nearby residents when there’s been a crime in the neighbourhood.

“All these kinds of things serve to provide a sense within a community that the police are there and are vigilant,” he says.

Egan added that police should be visible in the community and doesn’t discount that more officers may be seen in future out of patrol cars and on foot and bike patrols.

“When you’re an organization that has the gift of time to do those kinds of things, driving around waiting for the big one to happen is not an option.”

Egan was born in London, England but lived in Canada and Germany as his father was in the military, first with the British Army and then as a senior non-commissioned officer with the Canadian Army. Egan lived in Ottawa and joined the Canadian Army in 1966. In 1974 he joined the Saanich police as a constable.

He met his future wife, Marcia Johnston, here – they’ve been married 32 years. They have two adult children, Erin and Torin. He and his wife have lived on the same rural Saanich acreage for 30 years. In his spare time, Egan raises chickens, geese and bees. He’s currently reading Arthur Herman’s To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World.

Oak Bay citizens need to see police as more than something you call upon in times of trouble, he says.

“At the end of the day it’s about instilling a sense of safety.”


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