Shaunavon’s new RCMP sergeant, Dave Collings, has received a nice warm welcome to the community.
It wasn’t that long ago, for instance, that one of his staff members thoughtfully hung an eye-catching Saskatchewan Roughriders banner in his office.
Call it a welcome of sorts to his new team.
Sgt. Collings, of course, may have taken the gesture a bit differently.
After all, Winnipeg is Collings’ hometown and he maintains strong family ties to the community. In fact, his brother-in-law is Andrew Swan, Manitoba’s Minister of Justice and the province’s Attorney General.
Oh yeah, and he’s also a life-long, die-hard Blue Bombers fan.
“I was away for awhile and it showed up on my office wall,” chuckled Collings, pointing to the Roughrider souvenir. “But I think the Riders have lost two games in a row since it’s been up, so maybe I’ll leave it there.”
Collings grew up in Winnipeg and spent the first 16 years of his RCMP career working in various detachments in Manitoba.
His first working experience out of school, however, was as an accountant for a large hotel chain.
In fact, a police career was not something he considered an option.
“I didn’t think I could handle the darker side of policing,” he stated. “So I took a safe job wearing a suit.”
Later, though, he was drawn to police work by RCMP recruiters.
“I went to an information session and liked what I heard and the opportunities that existed,” he stated.
His first posting was at Manitou.
“It’s a small, rural farming community – much like it is here – with a population of about 300 people,” said Collings.
He was later stationed at detachments in Selkirk and Oakbank, as well as Winnipeg, where he spent six years working in the drugs and commercial crime divisions.
“It was interesting because you dealt with a lot of different facets of investigation,” he said of his time with the drug unit. “There is a lot of street gang activity (in Winnipeg) and many socio-economic issues which have created that environment,” he added.
Collings says that recent changes to the criminal code have resulted in harsher penalties for certain drug offences.
“A lot of time and effort goes into drug investigations,” he explained. “So it’s nice to see that there is more of a message being sent (to drug criminals.).”
But Collings says there was also a certain level of frustration involved with the job.
“You would target a group, including those involved in organized crime, during an investigation,” he explained. “But even if you took someone out of the system, there is always someone else stepping up to fill that void. There is always a demand for drugs.”
Working in the commercial crimes unit, meanwhile, offered a different set of challenges.
“There are a lot of reports and audits – it’s a lot more painstaking,” he said. “And the investigations are ‘all after the fact,’ and some of them go back years.”
After six years in Winnipeg, Collings accepted a position in Selkirk where he served as a watch commander.
Located just outside of Winnipeg, with a population of about 10,000 people, the detachment carried a busy case load.
Things should be a little quieter in southwest Saskatchewan.
Collings took the job in Shaunavon, along with a promotion. It is his first posting as a sergeant.
“This will definitely be a learning experience,” he said. “It’s more community based policing here and I’m looking forward to that.”
Many area residents have probably already spotted Collings in Shaunavon and surrounding communities. He’s the “new guy” in a town where everyone knows everyone. He’s also the guy often seen walking a young Great Dane named Remi, who weighs approximately 150 pounds and is still growing.
“I’m still trying to get used to not having anonymity,” he laughed.
When he’s not doing police work, Collings likes to keep fit.
Running is one of his favourite pastimes.
“It’s flat here, I like that,” he joked.
He also enjoys golfing and fishing – when he has the time – as well as reading.
He recently added a new activity to his schedule when a group of police officers and other emergency personnel organized a bowling team for a winter league.
“I don’t think any of us have any experience bowling, so it should be interesting,” he commented.
His staff members, however, have yet to tell him the team’s cheer.
“Go Riders Go!”