The retirement of Vancouver police deputy chief Warren Lemcke has led to some shuffling of the senior ranks at the department, with former longtime media cop Howard Chow getting the nod to join Police Chief Adam Palmer’s executive circle.
The shuffling also saw inspectors Martin Bruce, who began his policing career in Northern Ireland, and Marcie Flamand, who is Metis and led the department’s diversity and Indigenous relations section, promoted to the rank of superintendent.
Chow, a 28-year veteran, was selected over three other candidates to win the job. He now joins deputy chiefs Steve Rai and Laurence Rankin as Palmer’s top advisors. Chow will oversee the operations division of the department.
“Every assignment that I’ve had helped prepare me for this job,” Chow, 51, told reporters Monday at the VPD’s Cambie Street precinct. “I like the leadership team that Chief Palmer has assembled and I want to be part of it and bring some more to the table.”
As Palmer pointed out at the news conference, Chow was “the public face” of the department for four years as a media liaison officer, between 2004 and 2008. He was a constable at the time and then climbed up the ranks, working in recruiting and assigned to the team investigating the Stanley Cup Riot of 2011.
He worked as a dog handler, a sergeant in the traffic section, a motorcycle officer, a public order commander and as an inspector overseeing the policing district which includes the Downtown Eastside and runs east to the Pacific National Exhibition. Most recently, Chow was in charge of personnel services.
Chow was born and raised in Medicine Hat, Alta. and moved to B.C. to obtain a bachelor of arts degree in criminology at Simon Fraser University. He joined the VPD in 1989 and went on to receive six commendations for this work and was honoured with the 125th Canadian Confederation of Canada Medal.
Chinese media reporters at the news conference were interested in Chow’s heritage. He speaks Cantonese but pointed out he didn’t speak it a lot outside of the home when growing up in Alberta, where he said there was a small Chinese community.
“The opportunities weren’t there as much [in Alberta], but I do converse regularly with my parents in Chinese,” he said, noting the diversity of the department, which includes many Chinese-speaking officers. “I’m very proud to be here in this role, and if I can be any kind of a role model, I would like to say that policing is an amazing career.”
Bruce’s policing career began in 1987 in Northern Ireland when he joined Northern Ireland’s Royal Ulster Constabulary, where he witnessed “the troubles” in a country ripped apart by sectarian violence and terrorism.
He immigrated to Canada in 1993 and joined the VPD in 1995. He chose Vancouver because of a family connection, with his grandmother settling in Vancouver in the 1960s. His sister and brother-in-law immigrated to Vancouver in the 1970s, when the violence was at its height in Northern Ireland.
“What we strived for in Northern Ireland was to make inroads in the community and be partners with the community,” said Bruce, who has worked in several departments at the VPD, including the gang crime unit, Missing Women’s Task Force and the organized crime section. “Obviously, the terrorist elements on both sides were trying to create a wedge between the police and the community.”
That type of division isn’t the case in Vancouver, he said, where “being able to engage with community partners has been the most enjoyable thing for me, and working with other police agencies.” To be policing Vancouver and to be in Canada, “I’m living the Canadian dream, as I told the chief.”
With her promotion, Flamand becomes the highest-ranking Indigenous officer in the department. It’s a significant appointment in a department that continues to strive to improve its relations with the wider community of Aboriginal peoples in the city.
Flamand is a committee member of the SisterWatch program in the Downtown Eastside, which was created by the department in 2010 after a group of Indigenous women complained about the continued violence against women in the community.
“I’ve made a lot of really good friendships and built relationships and trust with a lot of Downtown Eastside women’s groups, with the whole goal of working together to prevent violence against women and girls,” she said. “To me, the work is very meaningful, and I take it quite seriously.”
Flamand joined the VPD in 1987 and has worked in patrol, recruiting and was a neighbourhood police officer and member of a specialized surveillance squad known as strike force. She has been a member of the department’s critical incident stress management team since 1999, working with officers involved in serious incidents.
Lemcke, who served 32 years with the department, will retire at the end of the month. At Monday’s news conference, he spoke briefly about his career, saying it was an honour to serve for more than three decades.
“I’ve had a varied career, lots of exciting things,” he said, describing his time on the job as challenging and rewarding. “There were some frustrations along the way. But if somebody said to me, ‘Would you do it all over again? I’d do it in a heartbeat.”