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PUTTING A HUMAN FACE ON POLICE

Being a police officer is the best job in the world, said Cst. Randy Wood, Halifax Regional Police's 2011 Police Officer of the Year.

"The people that I deal with teach you lessons every day about how to fight through adversity with pride," he said.


March 5, 2012
By Dannette Dooley

Being a police officer is the best job in the world, said Cst. Randy Wood, Halifax Regional Police’s 2011 Police Officer of the Year.

“The people that I deal with teach you lessons every day about how to fight through adversity with pride,” he said.

Originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, Wood moved to Nova Scotia 24 years ago and worked at the provincial jail for about 10 years before joining HRP more than a decade ago. He spent five years on patrol before moving to his current position as a community response officer in North Dartmouth – an area which faces more than its share of challenges every day.

North Dartmouth is riddled with many social problems. Many residents struggle to make it from one day to the next. “They face poverty, hunger, lack of employment, mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions,” Wood said.

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While those issues cannot be ignored, North Dartmouth is a wonderful community, he noted – and he’s proud to be stationed there. Community response officers become immersed in the community but the community also gets immersed in the men and women behind the badge.

Wood can be found helping out at the food bank, driving a single mother home with her groceries or advising officers in the major crime section responsible for investigating serious crime in the neighbourhood.

Community response officers help break down barriers between police and the community, he said.
Seeing the same face all the time builds that trust, he said.

“The community has really accepted our police family as part of the community. They trust us to help them through some of their really tough days,” he said.

Wood’s cell phone is never off. He wants to know and be there if he’s needed. “It’s sort of like being a Newfoundlander who likes to try to help everybody.”

While he’s happy to help those who need help, Wood also realizes his job is to make the neighbourhood as safe as possible. When an arrest needs to be made, he has no trouble enforcing the law.

Wood said winning the award is a reflection on how officers have been accepted into the community. He’s just like anyone else working in North Dartmouth, he said, only he wears a uniform.

“I get to follow up with the citizens to try to explain the process that the police have to enforce. I get to put a human face on the police officer,” he said.

Wood goes beyond the call of duty every day, said Supt. Brenda Zima. He’s referred to in the neighbourhood as Randy, she added.

He’s also a great role model for young officers. Veteran investigators often seek out his advice and assistance on major files and projects, Zima said.

“Randy really has the ability to wear all the hats at the same time. He can wear the enforcement hat, he can wear the compassion hat, he can wear the advocate hat – he’s a real community police officer in the real sense of the word.”

Whether making an arrest or searching for snowsuits and boots for a child, whatever Wood does is for the overall good of the community, Zima said – and that includes using his connections to help solve several homicides.

“Not only is he a great police officer, he’s an incredible man… To be welcomed into a community with open arms when you are still arresting their brother or son or daughter or mother or sister is a real unique quality for somebody to have.”

Other officers honored at the awards ceremony included S/Sgt. Lindsay Hernden and Jane Leslie, who received chief’s meritorious service awards. Sgt. Ken Burton and civilian employee Tracy Hey received community contribution awards.

Wendy Mansfield of the public relations unit was named the civilian employee of the year and Det/Csts Mike Cheeseman, Chris Marinelli and Jason Shannon received the investigator of the year award for their role in investigating a Feb. 2011 attempted murder.

Supt. Don Spicer, HRM Public Safety Officer, said the officers and civilians receiving awards weren’t the only winners.

“We’re all winners for having such dedicated, caring people working in our community. I, for one, am proud to have the opportunity to work with them,” Spicer said.

dooley@blueline.ca