Former VPD chief Jim Chu discusses new beat

Chu goes on the record to talk Aquilini Investment Group, hockey and broken wrist

Jim Chu has a new job. Three months after retiring as Vancouver’s police chief, Chu has joined the Aquilini Investment Group as vice-president of special projects and partnerships. The Aquilini family is best known for its ownership of the Vancouver Canucks. Chu begins his job Aug. 4. The Courier caught up with him Friday by telephone to discuss his new gig, what he’s been up to since leaving his post and how he broke his wrist.

I know you love hockey and play on a recreational team. Now that you’re working for the Aquilinis, I guess the first question is whether the job offer included season’s tickets to Vancouver Canucks games?

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Everybody that hears about this position asks me that question.

And what’s the answer?

I don’t have any affiliation with the Canucks. I’m working with the Aquilini Investment Group.

So how did the job come about?

When I announced my retirement near the end of my tenure as police chief, I received some calls from different people. One of the calls was from the Aquilini family. I had some positive meetings with them, including with president David Negrin and I really felt this was the best fit for me. If anything, I was looking more to private sector opportunities. I do have an undergraduate degree and master’s in business. I’ve done the public sector work all my life.

What happened to a run at politics?

When I was unemployed, I didn’t want to rule anything out. As I said, this was a great opportunity in the private sector, and I want to thank the Aquilini family for thinking that I had something to contribute.

OK, but what about politics?

I’ve ruled out politics. I’ve made a long-term commitment to the company.

What’s a long-term commitment?

Well, longer term. I’m only 55 years old, so I’m going to start a second career.

Was your retirement connected in any way to this job – that you announced your retirement knowing the Aquilinis had a job for you?

No. When I announced my retirement, I had nothing lined up. I had no offers, although there always was political discussions. There were no private sector options. I didn’t want anybody to say that I was using my current position to lobby for another job.

My understanding is that your new job will see you as a point person for relations with First Nations. Can you elaborate?

There’s more to it than that. The Aquilini Group is a diversified company and so there are many areas where they’re going to have to deal with regulatory and health and safety issues. So that will be something that I work on right away. There’s the area of government relations. And there are many other communities that the Aquilini Investment Group deals with. In terms of the First Nations’ file, I’ll be in a secondary role to president David Negrin.

So your prime responsibility will be what, then?

To begin with, there’s some regulatory and health and safety and environmental safety issues that I will work on.

When you say health and safety, is that safety of a building to ensure it doesn’t collapse in an earthquake, or the safety of a building to prevent crime?

All facets of safety.

How do you see making the transition from policing to the business world?

It’s exciting for me and I think I’ve got a little extra motivation because it’s something different. I did get some phone calls about continuing to work as a police chief. Even though a new city might be different, it wasn’t different enough. I also believe in life-long learning. I’ve got a lot to learn about the business world and I’m looking forward to working with some very experienced business people who’ve been very successful.

Which cities were calling for you to become their police chief?

With all these calls and opportunities, I hate to be a name dropper. I can just say there were some calls. I got calls from national and international search firms related to policing.

But did you get any other job offers that were not related to policing, besides the offer from the Aquilinis?

There were other opportunities presented to me and this was the most suitable for me.

It’s only been a few months, but do you miss being the police chief?

Well, if there’s one quote I’d like you to use it’s that I think Adam Palmer is doing a great job and my job as retired chief is to stay out of his way. So I haven’t been checking up on things, I haven’t been talking to anyone at the VPD. But what I’ve heard is very, very positive. Nationally, I’m still on the board of the Canadian Associations of Chiefs of Police as past president. And the Aquilini Investment Group supported me staying on the board. So I do get to weigh in on some national issues.

As you know, the Aquilinis have a high public profile in this city, particularly because of their ownership of the Canucks. You have a high profile, too. So are there plans to have you be a spokesperson on behalf of the company?

I don’t know that. With me being a new employee, they’re going to bring me along and give me focused tasks to begin with and we’ll see how things go. I just know my immediate priorities and that’s what I’ll work on.

There’s already some chatter on Twitter saying it’s unfortunate that you’re now working with developers. How do you respond to those critics?

I prefer not to respond. Everybody’s got an opinion. There were lots of opinions about what I should have done when we had policy decisions to deal with at the police department. I learned very early on in the police department that you can’t make everybody happy. Right? Just like your stories [in the Courier].

So what have you been up to since you left the police department?

I had a daughter who was working in New Zealand, so I went to visit her. And here’s a scoop for you: I was riding my bike in Oregon and I fell off it and broke a bone my left wrist. Fortunately, I’m right-handed. I had a cast on it for four weeks.

How did you do that?

It was a pathway in the middle of nowhere. And for miles, there was only me and this pedestrian. The pedestrian was looking up hill. So I thought he saw me. There was road noise from a highway nearby. At the very last minute, he jerked in front of me. He was daydreaming but he was also painting a line marker. So I went around him, into the bushes, braced myself and ended up with a cracked bone in my wrist. I want to point out, I was wearing a helmet.

Are you still playing ice hockey?

The summer break is here, but I do look forward to returning to the ice in late September.

Okay. So is this job with the Aquilinis really a plan for you to have them get you a tryout with the Canucks?

Let me repeat: I have nothing to do with the hockey club, which is a good thing.

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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