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Penticton RCMP inspector heading into sunset
From his law enforcement beginnings rescuing a kitten, Insp. Brad Haugli never imagined he would be overseeing the RCMP detachment he was first posted to.
After nearly four years as Penticton’s top cop, Haugli will be moving on to the Lower Mainland on April 5 to take on the challenge of a new position in the RCMP as the investigative services officer. In his 23-year career, Haugli has been posted twice to Penticton. He vividly recalls his first day as a Mountie on Jan. 5, 1991 and walking into the Penticton detachment having pulled up in his pickup with nothing more than a pair of skis, a suitcase and his RCMP trunk given to him at depot with his police kit.
“I was so excited to become a Mountie and start my first day on the job that nothing else mattered,” he said.
Knowing full well the RCMP is a mobile organization, he never got to set his roots deep in Penticton, getting dispatched to another community a few years later, but he fell in love with the city where he solved his first investigation.
“It was a theft of a kitten on Windsor Avenue,” said Haugli. “It was a neighbourly dispute where an older gentleman kept this kitten from his neighbour because he felt it was being abused.”
Haugli was called in to mediate and said looking back on the situation he now believes the older man was suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“I will never forget, he would not let the kitten go and I was not going to create a problem. We chatted for 15 to 20 minutes about nothing and then he decided to go and use the washroom. Well, that was my window. I remember grabbing the kitten taking it outside and handing it to the neighbour and told them to go back in their house and not to come out,” said Haugli.
He quickly went back into the man’s house and when the resident came out of the washroom they continued chatting. Haugli said the man never did ask where the kitten went and the young constable went on his way.
“That was my first investigation,” he laughed. “Actually, what I took away from that, and I have continued on in my career, is talking to people gets you a long way.”
It was just the beginning for Haugli, who six months later found himself suited in riot gear on Main Street after being on the bicycle patrol earlier in the evening at King’s Park during the MC Hammer concert. A crush of people flooded downtown Penticton that hot summer night and a riot broke out in the city.
Haugli feels he was able to bring some of the insight and experience earned later in his career dealing with organized crime back to Penticton. He said these individuals who believe they will go unnoticed while on holiday or setting up illegal business are wrong because local RCMP officers have successfully partnered with the gang enforcement team.
“If there is anything I think that I am leaving as a legacy here, it is our ability to ensure we deal with anyone who comes into our community who may be related to a gang or organized crime. This is a wonderful place to come in the summer and we don’t want to start living some of the realities of organized crime and violence that we have seen in the Lower Mainland or even Kelowna,” said Haugli. “I think the RCMP here has done an excellent job of suppressing that presence of gangsters in this community,”
On the whole, crime has been reduced by 15 per cent in Penticton and in the regional district since Haugli took charge of the detachment. Haugli said engaging with the United Way as the campaign co-chair offered new insight on his job.
“My position shouldn’t only be chief of police. It should be someone who is embedded in the community and gets to know the community. It is not just about being a cop, but an ambassador for the community and someone who really understands and appreciates it,” said Haugli.
“We the police see a lot of symptoms when we respond to calls, be it domestic violence or drug use, and we don’t often get to see the root cause. United Way helped me see that root cause and where we can help. I have seen real differences being made in that we the police aren’t having to respond to deal with the symptoms any more and that is because of things the United Way are doing.”
Not a fan of goodbyes, Haugli said for now it is just see you later.
“I was fortunate to be able to come here a second time and there will be a third when I retire and come back with my family,” he said. “This is home to me.”
An application process was opened up Canada-wide for Haugli’s replacement. A shortlist of candidates will be interviewed by a panel including Mayor Dan Ashton, and a person will be named shortly after Haugli’s departure.