Blue Line


October 2, 2012  By Danette Dooley

810 words – MR photos: dooley nov folder

HEAD: Making the public proud

by Danette Dooley

Shortly after submitting his resignation, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Insp. Sean Ryan thanks those who’d made the greatest impact on him during his 28-year policing career. The town council and residents in the small community of Pouch Cove were at the top of his list.


Ryan was incident commander responsible for coordinating the recovery efforts of three teens from that community who drowned in March, 2001.

“I am truly honoured to have witnessed this powerful example of the human spirit and the defining hospitality of fellow Newfoundlanders. The spirit of these young men will live forever in me along with the pride and love I hold in my heart for the people of Pouch Cove,” Ryan wrote in an email..

The deaths “tore at his heart,” Ryan said in an interview. His own feelings had to be put aside, however, as he faced scores of media who’d come from near and far to report on the tragedy.

“I’m still a father and a man. And I kept thinking of those boys under that ice and even with today’s technology we can’t get to them.”

A search and rescue helicopter found one of the victim’s bodies and local fishermen found the other two. Ryan says he learned a valuable lesson from the tragedy.

“In retrospect, the experts were the people of the community. The fisherpersons who lived in that community knew the idiosyncrasies of that bay better than anybody else in the world.”

Ryan retired Sept. 28 as officer in charge of intelligence and organized crime. He’s accepted a newly established position, director, regulatory compliance, with the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation.

A native of Grand Falls-Windsor, Ryan is the second youngest of 21 children and served the bulk of his career with the RNC Criminal Investigation Division (CID). He spent 15 years with the force’s tactical and rescue team.

No matter the position held, Ryan looked for ways to make the public proud of the constabulary and its rich history.

“We are the oldest police force in North America. We’ve been around since 1729 and I was always hell bent on making sure people didn’t forget that.”

Ryan was also instrumental in establishing the force’s canine unit and re-establishing its mounted unit but says one of the most rewarding jobs was working in the sex crimes unit.

“I was dealing with people at their worst both from the victim perspective and the offender perspective. They were the most heinous, horrendous crimes that you can imagine but I lived for it and I just loved it. I worked with people who had that same drive when we were in that unit.”

Ryan’s determination to learn from other police forces saw him train with numerous police services in Canada and the US. All were phenomenal experiences, he said, and left him with ideas to share with fellow officers.

Ryan served on numerous national policing committees and in 2005 was invited to present to a Senate committee on law enforcement’s role in dealing with people with mental illnesses.

Ryan has worked with Blue Line psychology columnist Dr. Dorothy Cotton, who he has described as “the patron saint of police mental health liaison and the driving force behind the issue in the country.”

In May 2012 Gov. Gen. David Johnston inducted Ryan as a member of the Order of Merit of Police Forces.

While he’s looking forward to his new position, Ryan says he’ll miss the RNC and the friendships he’s made over the last three decades – within the force and the policing community throughout the country.

“I’m so proud of this organization. I’m just one member of a team. I’ve spent my adult life here. If it’s not who you are it has to be a part of who you are.”

RNC Chief Robert Johnston considers Ryan a friend as well as a colleague.

“Sean is passionate about the RNC and leaves with a lot of memories. A lot of that is because he put a great deal of his heart and energy into the organization.”

The constabulary has benefited from Ryan’s creativity over the years, Johnston said, noting that Ryan designed the RNC’s new dress uniform.

Johnston said the uniform represents not only the future but also the past.

“Sean got it right even down to the details of the whistle that’s affixed to the uniform. There was a time when there weren’t electronic communications like we have today so that was Sean’s attention to detail that made that a reality,” Johnston said.

Ryan also played a pivotal role in the design of a legacy sculpture erected at near downtown St. John’s. The sculpture, created by Luben Boykov, features a large statue of an RNC officer in period uniform (1800s) holding a lantern in one hand and guiding a young girl with the other.

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