The time has come.
After serving the community of Lacombe as a police officer for the past nearly 30 years, the last five years of that as Chief of Police, Gary Leslie has decided to retire from his career with the Lacombe Police Service.
“It’s been a gift for me to perform the tasks that I do to the community and to work with my peers and work with the other police agencies,” said Leslie.
“Basically I have never worked a day in my life in the sense that I love my job so much.”
Born and raised in Regina, Leslie enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces after graduating high school.
While with the military, Leslie served in both Canada and Germany as a military police officer. He said he enjoyed his time there but wanted to do more work on the law enforcement side and could not do that with the Canadian Armed Forces.
It was that desire that led Leslie to municipal policing and he returned to Regina to attend the Saskatchewan Police College.
After graduating from the Saskatchewan Police College, Leslie had his first municipal policing job with the Regina Police Service. From there, he took a job with the Hinton Police Service (this was before Hinton’s policing was done by the RCMP.)
Leslie said he wanted to leave Saskatchewan and had an opportunity to do so by taking the position in Hinton. He added that Hinton was a beautiful setting and he enjoyed the mountains and surrounding country in the area.
While in Hinton, Leslie got to know the park rangers and on days off would volunteer with the park ranger service, he said.
While Leslie was in Hinton, the town decided it was too costly to have its own police service and so the Hinton Police Service was disbanded. At that time, Leslie received an opportunity to come to Lacombe.
He did so in 1984 and has been here ever since.
“I’m very fortunate to work in this community,” said Leslie. He added that he is also fortunate to have spent the majority of his career in Lacombe. He said this has allowed him to grow up with the community and gives him ownership of the community and the people who call it home.
Leslie calls spending the forming years, and the majority of his career in Lacombe “A wonderful adventure. It’s just a big teamwork effort by the community and the police service to make the community what it is today.”
He added that the same kind of experience with policing would not be attainable had he worked the majority of his career in a larger centre like Regina.
“In the larger centres, you are only dealing with numbers and you are just putting out fires where, when you do something in a community of this size, you actually see the results of what you did,” said Leslie.
Being able to see that difference is one of the things Leslie loves about his job, he said. He added that the ownership he feels of his community and knowing he can make a real difference has made him a better police officer.
In 2008, Leslie had the opportunity to make even more of difference in the community when he became chief of police.
He said at first the thought of becoming chief was overwhelming, but then he realized he could use it as a way to advance the police service.
One such example of this was when Lacombe became the first municipal police service in Canada to get mobile workstations under Leslie’s leadership.
Leslie added that he also enjoyed using his position as chief to implement the ideas of his police officers.
One of those officers is Insp. Steve Murray. Murray stands to become the next chief of police once Leslie retires and said that Leslie has developed groundbreaking partnerships and brought the Lacombe Police Service to a standard Murray is happy to carry on with.
“Gary has clearly taken the LPS to its current level,” said Murray.
“He has opened lots of doors and I think made the LPS name to be one that is highly respected in the policing community and I think our community.”
Leslie said that he has chosen to retire at this point in his life so that he can enjoy his retirement. He said that policing is a stressful career and many officers do not get the chance to enjoy retirement; Leslie hopes go against the grain with this trend.
In fact, Leslie does not view his leaving the Lacombe Police Service as a retirement, he prefers the term encore. Encore suggests that leaving his career is the beginning of something new for him, rather than an end. He said he is not sure what his encore will entail yet, but that is part of the allure.