There’s a new chief in town.
Or there will be soon anyway. Lacombe’s current Chief of Police Gary Leslie will be retiring the end of this month and will be replaced by Insp. Steve Murray. While Murray said that Leslie will be sorely missed for his infectious laugh, great community spirit and support for the Lacombe Police Service, he is happy to see Leslie moving onto another exciting chapter in his life.
Murray added that Leslie will be leaving the LPS in better shape than he found it and Murray, along with the rest of the LPS, will continue to follow Leslie’s example of a high standard for policing in Lacombe.
“I want the citizens of Lacombe to know that we are truly going to strive for policing excellence,” said Murray. “We’ve set the bar high. We’re going to do everything we can to achieve that benchmark.”
Murray said that when Leslie started to think about retirement, he suggested that the police commission approach Murray and ask if he would be interested in the role. After some discussion, Murray decided to accept the position, which he said represents the pinnacle of a career in policing.
What attracted Murray to policing in the first place was a desire to help people, he said.
“Policing always struck me as a helping profession,” said Murray. He said there is a part of him that has always enjoyed feeling needed and he thought policing would be a good way to satisfy that desire while giving back to a community.
Policing was very different where Murray grew up in Northern Ireland.
He immigrated to Canada and Alberta with his family at the age of 12. He came to Lacombe after living and working as a police officer in Drayton Valley. On his way through Lacombe for a field trip with his daughter, the bus Murray was on broke down in Lacombe. That short experience gave Murray the strong feeling this was somewhere he wanted to be.
“I instantly liked the feel of the place,” said Murray. He then applied to work for the Lacombe Police Service and soon after moved to Lacombe with his family.
Echoing the thoughts of his predecessor Leslie, Murray said that one of the biggest advantages to working as a municipal police officer in a smaller centre is that he feels a sense of ownership of the community.
This view makes Murray think about how his conduct at work will affect not only himself, his employer and his coworkers but also his neighbours and family, he said.
“I go to work every day with a view of this is my community and it’s always going to be my community,” said Murray. “Everything I do at work each day is going to impact how my community evolves.”
Murray added that he believes everyone who works in a caring profession does great work every day, but they don’t always get to see it.
“Getting to come to Lacombe for the long-term, I’ve actually seen it and that’s a huge difference,” said Murray.
In larger centres, said Murray, the chances of a police officer crossing paths with another individual are extremely remote and police officers there don’t get to develop the relationships with people the way you do in a community like Lacombe.
“You would treat a neighbour or a friend differently than you would treat a stranger.”
He added that, in a small community, if police need to deal with an individual several times, they have the opportunity to work with that individual to help them out and find a solution to their problems.
As chief of police, Murray will try to find like-minded officers to work in Lacombe, he said. He added that he will need to find the right people to work as police officers in Lacombe and make sure they fit the community.
“We want to find the right people, we want police officers that want to be in Lacombe,” said Murray. He added that he will be working with the police commission and the City to make sure that the LPS is a part of the team that ensures Lacombe will be a “Safe and vibrant community where people can live work and play.”
Murray went on to say that he is a big supporter of community policing and wants to develop a service that not only makes for efficient and effective policing but will be completely rooted in the community. He said that he believes the success of the police service should be integrated and even dependant on the success of the community.
“As a police service we will never achieve our greatest successes without community participations,” said Murray. “I like to think that with our input and with our support the community will achieve its highest level of safety and vibrance.”