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Incoming police chief says top job is learning about new city

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Cathy Dobson & George Mathewson

Sarnia has a new top cop.

Derek Davis, former Commander of Burlington Police, officially took the helm of Sarnia Police last week during a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall.

Davis, the first chief in decades to be hired externally and not from within, received a warm welcome from outgoing Chief Norm Hansen, board members, officers and assorted dignitaries at City Hall.

He said coming to Sarnia was a great opportunity for himself, wife Jolie and their three children, ages 16, 14 and 12.

“There’s a lot of great characteristics that Sarnia offers, from a border town to the water part, to being a centre hub of an area. I’m also a fan of the more personal contact. When you get into bigger (police) services they’re very industrial in their approach.”

At the Halton Regional Police Service he served in a wide range of operational roles, including criminal investigations, traffic, guns and gangs, training and front-line patrol.

Davis, 48, rose through the ranks from constable to superintendent, and held command of specialized units such as crime analysis, communications and emergency management.

He picked up the keys to a new home the same day he was sworn in, and admitted coming from another city means a steep learning curve.

“The priority right now is to land, listen and learn,” he said, adding Hansen helped make a smooth transition.

“I don’t know what I don’t know, and I need to invest all of my time into learning what I need to know.”

Davis holds business diplomas from McMaster University in project and risk management, a diploma in public administration from Western University, and is completing a Masters of Business Administration through the Australian Institute of Business.

He also serves as vice-chair on the national board of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

Hansen stepped down after 37 years with Sarnia Police Services, including 13 in senior management and four years as chief.

“I joined Sarnia right out of university,” he told The Journal. “I grew up here, I love it here.”

Under his watch, Sarnia Police added new officers and created a successful Mental Health Engagement and Response Team to respond to addiction and mental health calls.

Two graduates of the Ontario Police College were hired in December, and another three new recruits started in January. But six retiring officers this year means vacancies must be filled, said Hansen.

“I feel for the young officers coming in because of the catch-and-release problem. Courts are being so lenient and trying to keep people out of jail. It means we’re arresting the same people again and again.”

Hansen announced his retirement in January at age 58, saying he wants to relax with his wife and travel.

After welcoming the new chief and say his goodbyes at City Hall, Hansen noted, “I report to a new boss now, and she has plans for me tonight.”


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