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Investigational excellence with a whole lot of energy

Const. Taylor Olenic of the Medicine Hat Police Service has been on the job for less than two years but he’s exceeded every expectation


April 14, 2020
By Renée Francoeur
Renée Francoeur
Photo: Ernie Fischhofer, Medicine Hat Police Service. 

Medicine Hat Police Const. Kinsi Steiger always comes back to one thought every time she’s working a shift with Const. Taylor Olenic:

How is this kid a rookie?

“Taylor has been a fantastic addition to our team,” she says. “His work ethic and determination has sparked a fire on our crew. He makes us want to work harder and do a better job. You never hear him complain and he gives his all from start to finish.”

Olenic, who officially began his policing career with Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS) in June 2018, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of Blue Line’s inaugural Rookie of the Year Award. This brand-new accolade — stepping in to take the place of our long-standing Police Leadership Award for the time being — still recognizes and encourages a standard of excellence that exemplifies “leadership as an activity not a position,” and pride in service to the public. Its goal is to highlight promising new officers who are effectively paving the way for the policing of today and tomorrow, and making positive waves among their peers, agencies, communities and beyond.

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“As soon as I saw this award I instantly thought — Taylor,” Steiger continues. “Taylor is committed to a healthy lifestyle and you will always find him in the gym or on the ice. Not only is he an amazing rookie cop but he’s also a dedicated husband and father of three young children. He has found the work/life balance and has been able to continue to do the things he loves.”

A desire to grow

Olenic, 28, actually cut his law enforcement teeth in corrections in 2014.

“I was a little stuck in terms of what I wanted to do,” he notes. “My brother-in-law is a local sheriff in Medicine Hat and he recommended I look into corrections to see how I liked that kind of work.”

Four years later, he was grateful to be in a field with purpose but also wanted to keep expanding his knowledge and challenging himself.

“My wife, Stephanie, and I talked about it and we knew corrections had been amazing for me but it was time for something more,” Olenic says. “I reached out to a recruitment officer, started filling out all the applications and the rest, as they say, is history.”

He entered the Medicine Hat/Lethbridge College Police Academy in January 2018. MHPS boasts a unique, 20-week training program that runs as a co-operative between MHPS and Lethbridge College (Criminal Justice – Police Cadet Training). It’s designed to meet industry demand for officers who have mastered both hard skills, such as firearms use, and soft skills, such as interpersonal communication, ethical accountability and teamwork, according to the college. The police service provides the subject matter experts, and Lethbridge provides academic support as it relates to adult learning.

In fact, Lethbridge College received a gold Program Excellence award in 2018 at the Colleges and Institutes Canada conference for the competency-based police program.

Those six months of training as a recruit stand out as one of Olenic’s most memorable moments so far.

“I didn’t know if I would have a job at the end of it so I was really pushing myself to the max to prove myself to such an amazing organization. It’s also challenging being away from my wife and children that long… Finally receiving that offer from Chief [Andy] McGrogan was just absolutely phenomenal after working so hard.”

Top of the game

Const. Darryl Hubich, a field training officer at MHPS, has been in policing for 20 years and trained several recruits but he says he was never more impressed than when he trained Olenic in 2018.

“From early on he adapted a ‘common sense’ approach that usually takes officers years to develop,” Hubich says. “Taylor is always considerate of all members of the community and clearly allowed inmates, whom he had previously dealt with, to maintain their dignity while in custody. Several times a week, Taylor will be approached by former inmates, not with distain, but often times with adoration and this frequently leads to intelligence gathering.”

Olenic is astounded when he picks up the phone to learn he’s the top pick for Rookie of the Year.

“It’s absolutely a surprise,” he says, explaining how he just loves doing what he does. “It’s dynamic and it changes every day.”

In September 2019 Olenic was transferred to Patrol Team 2 with MHPS and even though he is junior member, Hubich says he is a leader on this team, “always putting his teammates first” by offering to back members up or take calls in their area.

“Taylor immediately showed a very high level of potential when he started working in the Patrol Section,” adds Const. Jason Ross, who worked alongside Olenic from June 2018 to November 2019. “He has been highly motivated and shown wisdom beyond his years when dealing with files. Taylor consistently is at the top of every measurable statistical category in patrols. His common sense and communication skills surpass those of most patrol members 10-15 years senior to him.”

According to his Patrol 2 Sergeant Harley S. (Stacey) Kesler, Olenic also has a strong inclination for street level drug enforcement, fraud investigations and offender management.

“He exceeds both quantity and quality of work in comparison to his academy peer group,” Kesler explains, noting in 2019 Olenic concluded 88 criminal investigations with charges. The Medicine Hat Police Service – patrol division average per member is 46 files concluded with charges. Additionally, Olenic submitted 43 field intelligence reports in 2019; the police service average is 17 per member. He initiated 25 bail violation files through offender management tasks such as offender accountability checks and also issued 204 provincial statute violation tickets — the police service peer average is 177.

“Taylor routinely shows great decision-making skills, both in investigations and in use of force situations,” Hubich continues.

Spirit and vigour

Olenic is described as one of those gifted few with infectious energy and he spurs on his fellow members.

“Taylor always has very positive attitude and is one of the best team players in our service,” Ross says. “While most people quickly gravitate to one area of policing and become proficient at those skills, Taylor excels at all areas of policing that he has seen, and is constantly seeking knowledge and training in the areas that he hasn’t worked in.”

It doesn’t matter who is working with him, he can motivate any member to do extra offender accountability, says Communications Operator Teresa McMullan. “As a dispatcher, I’ve worked with many officers and Const. Olenic stands out. He works hard from the moment he gets on duty, to the moment he goes home. He has so much drive and ambition, and he operates as a much more senior officer.”

Const. Brian Harper concurs, stating Olenic is “far beyond” the level of a one-year constable.

“Taylor is a breath of fresh air and brings an enormous amount of energy every day he puts on his uniform,” he says.

Respect and understanding

As it relates to his investigational excellence, Olenic has been an affiant of two CDSA (Controlled Drugs and Substances Act) search warrants and is active at recruiting and managing human sources, Kesler continues.

“Being able to read people is huge,” Olenic says. “Listening, understanding someone’s story goes a long way and that’s something I took away from corrections. Some of the people we come across — whether they’re criminals or just members of the public — are having the worst time of their lives and so being able to recognize them as human beings makes all the difference in my opinion… That all leads straight back into human sources.”

It’s also a fine balancing act, he notes.

“We wear so many hats as law enforcement officers today… Sometimes we have to put on that warrior face — for lack of a better term. You have to let people know that you’re respectful but that you’re also not going to back down from doing the hard work when it comes around to it.”

“Const. Olenic is genuine with the victims and the suspects,” McMullan says. “He shows compassion to everyone he interacts with. He treats everyone with respect.”

Speaking of balance, it’s something Olenic has mastered in terms of her personal life, too. As the father of seven-year-old Westyn and three-year-old twins, Lleyton and Parker, his schedule is never on snooze — especially with his wife currently enrolled fulltime in a college nursing program.

When asked where he draws his stamina from, he says, “I ask myself that question every day,” with a laugh.

“It basically comes down to being able to shut off your police officer mind when it’s time to shift into being Dad,” he says. “I think it’s so important to leave work at the door and do what you need to do as a father. Aside from that, routine is huge for me. Working out is important. I like to make sure I’m running, doing some cardio, staying nimble.”

Nurturing resources

Alberta Child and Family Services is one other group singing Olenic’s praises in Medicine Hat.

Community agencies, like Children’s Services are such a valuable resource for all, Olenic stresses.

“We’re so lucky to have them by our side for those situations where we’re a bit limited… And we can call them 24/7. They’re there — even if it’s just to be an ear for us or to provide suggestions on how to better handle a call or for information sharing,” he explains. “The main thing is to continue to nurture these types of resources because they have specialized, professional expertise in completely different fields that can only help us.”

According to Kesler, an embedded social worker advised patrol supervisors that on Aug. 13, 2019, Olenic had “assisted with a difficult matter on more than one occasion and that he showed great support to the responding case worker and supervisor.”

Additionally, as a result of Olenic’s concern for the community, he has been tasked with a leadership role in identifying problem houses and then implementing problem-oriented and community-oriented solutions, Kesler further comments. It’s working because the police service has received appreciation from neighbours that are affected by those houses.

In his short time as a member of MHPS, Olenic has displayed the qualities that every police force wants in a new officer, states Peter German, one of the awards program’s esteemed judges. “I was particularly struck by the comments from uniform and civilian staff in the department, lauding his leadership ability, teamwork, and investigative excellence. He has also demonstrated a commitment to community, working with social workers and in youth sports.”

Growing up playing hockey in the small town of Swift Current, Sask., Olenic pays it forward by coaching hockey and baseball.

“I grew up surrounded by volunteering… My mom was always involved in sports and our community. Organized sports are a huge part of who I am and where I get my work ethic from. I want to give that to my children as well.”

His favourite volunteering gig so far occurred just a few months ago — a modified floor hockey game akin to ringette with the local Special Olympics group.

“To see the smiles on their faces as they completely kicked our butts at a sport they’ve mastered… it was absolutely phenomenal,” he says. “I showed up with my hockey stick ready to go and here I’m handed what is essentially a broomstick, so we all had fun with that.”

To others seeking tips on conquering new job jitters and aspiring to be fellow future Rookies of the Year, Olenic advises you to find your niche and roll with whatever that may be.

“There’s going to be people that you work with who also have those passions for certain things in policing. Find them, look up to them and learn from them. There were so many great officers in my first year and I learned so much from them all. Keep your mind open to that kind of learning.”

As for the future, Kesler says “selfishly, I would like to have him spend more time in the patrol division to develop his leadership and analytical skills. I strongly believe that patrol work is rewarding and is quickly becoming a specialty skill in its own right. General Duty offers the opportunity for members to develop their general knowledge, lead themselves, then lead others through field training, and expands on that by temporary acting assignments as patrol sergeants. Part of the leadership development includes learning about incident command systems.”

That being said, Kesler believes this Rookie of the Year will “undoubtedly” be sought after by the Organized Crime Section/Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and the Priority Street Crimes Unit “for his ability to cultivate human sources and provide reliable and accurate information.”

He has great capacity to build teamwork through his hard work, Kesler continues, and a unique ability to provide real-time intelligence to coworkers.

Olenic says he does indeed have his eye on moving into covert operations or the organized crime section one day.

“I’m interested in taking more drugs off the streets. They have such detrimental effects on our community,” he says. “Even back when I was in corrections, fentanyl and the like was a growing concern then.”

But for now, he’s interested in continuing to expand his knowledge base, signing up for whatever seminars and online courses that he can, as offered through MHPS.

“I’m extremely happy with where I’m at.”

Find out more about our awards program here: bluelineexpo.com/event/awards.


THANK YOU TO THE 2020 PANEL OF JUDGES

Thank you to our 2020 judging panel for your expertise, thoughtful insight, new ideas, steadfast dedication, and your helpful suggestions for lifting this new award off the ground.

Christine Silverberg is an accomplished lawyer and the Chief of the Calgary Police Service from 1995-2000. Christine went to law school after she retired as Chief, becoming a Partner at Gowlings LLP, then joining the independent law practices at Wolch deWit Silverberg & Watts. In 2015, Christine launched her own firm, SilverbergLegal. Christine is currently a CACP and OACP member. Among her many awards, she was also selected as part of the YWCA sesquicentennial project as one of 150 women who had had a significant impact on Calgary over the last 150+ years and in recognition of positive and extensive impact on community (2017).

Peter German is a former Deputy Commissioner with both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Correctional Service Canada. He currently practices law, is a consultant on criminal justice and leadership matters, and is president of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform at the University of British Columbia. Prior to retiring from the RCMP, he was the Deputy Commissioner for Western and Northern Canada. He holds a doctorate in law from the University of London, and is the author of a legal text, Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering. German was awarded both the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee medals, is an Officer of the Order of Merit of Police, and was awarded his Queen’s Counsel designation in 2017.

Armand La Barge is the retired Chief of Police of York Regional Police in Ontario. La Barge began his career there in 1973 and retired in December 2010 after serving as chief for his final eight years. La Barge is the past president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the past chair of Special Olympics Ontario. He is also the immediate past chair of St. John Ambulance Ontario and a member of the board of governors of Trent University and Sacred Heart Catholic College. La Barge was awarded the PESM with one bar, both the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals, is an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces and a Commander in the Order of St. John.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: ROOKIES OF THE YEAR

The judges were all so impressed by the initiative and energy of these nominees that they wish to highlight honourable mentions alongside our winner.

“The outstanding candidates who received honourable mentions all displayed a combination of leadership acumen, community involvement and personal dedication to their new careers,” says Peter German, one of our esteemed judges, “which means they serve as role models for others and assure the rest of us that our chosen profession is in good hands.”

Congratulations and keep up the phenomenal work to all the honourable mentions:

 


The 2020 Rookie of the Year Award will be presented at Blue Line Expo, which has been postponed to Sept. 29. More at bluelineexpo.com.

This story appears as our April 2020 cover story here.