Blue Line

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An inspiring example of leadership


March 4, 2015
By Mark Reesor

‘Stay quiet and keep your hands off the radio.’

That was the advice Walter Argent says his coach officer gave him in his early days with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). The department was “too much paramilitary when I started,” he told <24 Hours> in 2009, “and now it’s gone a little too university.”

Argent worked hard to instill the fundamentals of service in new officers, including demanding that they kept a high-shine on shoes.

“The one thing I instill in these kids is, who the hell is paying their wages,” he told <24 Hours> “It’s the citizens of Vancouver.”

Argent began his policing career with the RCMP and joined the VPD in 1979. He served with distinction in a variety of assignments, including patrol, traffic and the Neighbourhood Policing Team until his retirement in 2014.

A recipient of a variety of awards recognizing his many years of exemplary service, “Sgt. Argent is held in the highest esteem and is respected by all ranks in the VPD and outside agencies,” VPD Insp. Scott Thompson wrote in nominating Argent for the Blue Line Police Leadership Award.

Argent demonstrated his leadership skills during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, noted Thompson, by leading a group of officers to restore order as rioting escalated. Those deployed with him “described his actions, courage and leadership on that chaotic and dangerous night as ‘exceptional.”

The 2011 Occupy Vancouver protest was also filled with tension. Argent led a small team of officers in an environment that was “unpredictable, filled with tension and had the potential to escalate to violence,” noted Thompson, demonstrating “patience, commitment, dedication and resourcefulness.

“He quickly earned the respect and admiration of the protesters, city staff and citizens for his fair and balanced approach to dealing with the issues. His efforts directly contributed to minimizing conflict, maintaining public safety and upholding the rule of law. He led from the front and as a result of that the junior beat team members that were assigned to the Occupy Protest gained confidence and were inspired by his leadership.”

{Pulling Together}

Argent’s outstanding service to the community included his commitment to the program, designed to improve the relationship between police officers and First Nations Peoples.

Participants paddle up to 20 large ocean going traditional canoes on the typically nine day annual journey on the BC coast, visiting seven to eight communities along the way. Argent participated in the event, organized the food service as the “head chef,” served as society president and was the lead organizer in 2012 when the VPD was the host agency.

“It is not uncommon to find Wally working hard in the kitchen tent for the entire day,” wrote S/Sgt. Dave Duncan. “He treats everyone with such kindness and respect that he is known and loved by all. It is difficult to capture in words just how important and committed Wally is to the Journey. He is always willing to assist with any situation as he always responds to requests with “What do you need” and “Let’s get it done.” He is an incredible role model to all participants.”

{Testimonials}

Thompson included plenty of testimonials in his nomination package.

Working with Argent was a “great privilege,” wrote Insp. Adua Porteous. “His kindness and graceful encouragement was always very inspiring and uplifting. He had an interesting way of teaching and offering advice when you least expected it.

“Wally is one of those diamonds in the rough with an enormous amount of wily experience and knowledge… Most members who have contributed 33 years don’t normally continue to volunteer their time, but Wally is the exception.

“He is the face of the Granville Entertainment District, Occupy Vancouver, Pulling It Together, Taxi Detail, the Antique Vancouver Police Car and the individual who built the strong lasting relationships with the gay community in District One.”

Argent inspires members young and old, Porteous added, believes in the power of developing relationships with key community members and strong believes in the “meet and greet” approach.

“Wally is an inspiration!” concluded Porteous. “He represents the Vancouver Police Department’s mission statement and is the poster child. Sergeant Argent has integrity, is respectful, is very accountable and above all else is professional.”

{Beyond the call}

Argent epitomized the words service, compassion and the VPD motto “Beyond the Call,” wrote Thompson.
He was the face of the VPC during the Occupy demonstration, using the inroads and relationships his team had established to maintain communication with organizers and reduce tensions and confrontations.

His concern extended to more than policing issues, noted Thompson.

“Wally also reached out to the distraught father and extended family of a young woman who died of a drug overdose in a tent at the site. Wally spoke to the father at length on many occasions over several days having provided his own mobile phone number. Wally’s empathy and compassion shone through and the father of the young woman was most grateful to Wally and the VPD in this regard.”

Argent “leads by example,” Thomson concluded. “He upholds and lives the VPD’s values of, integrity, professionalism, accountability and respect. His actions have made Vancouver a better place to live, work and visit. His dedicated 33 years of police service have demonstrated that he is committed to a community focused approach to problem solving and his actions and volunteer service are truly outstanding.

“Perhaps Sergeant Argent’s greatest influence has been on the younger generations of police officers who have had the good fortune and pleasure to serve with, and be coached and mentored by him. Sergeant Argent is truly a mentor and positive role model to all members of the VPD.”


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