Salt Spring’s new RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Clive Seabrook is making strides toward getting to know the community after being on the job for a busy couple of months.
Seabrook hit the ground running when he took up the post last fall, when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was inflaming existing tensions in the downtown Ganges area. The disruptive and violent behaviour that’s come to mar Centennial Park and the surrounding business community is a complex issue with no easy solution. But the 15-year RCMP member brings with him considerable life and career experience that makes him amply qualified for managing island matters. At the same, his excitement for the posting and the opportunity to live on Salt Spring with his family promises a bond with the community at large.
Originally from Prince Rupert, Seabrook said he is very familiar with small-town living. He came to policing later in life, having first been a businessman who was active in the town’s chamber of commerce and Rotary Club.
“I came to a place and time where I was ready to make a change, and I kind of saw it as a continuation of my community service activities,” Seabrook said.
Seabrook was most recently stationed in Port Alberni, where he was detachment head in his final year. Prior to that he spent eight years in plain clothes investigating serious crimes. Throughout his career he has done everything from frontline policing to traffic patrols to investigating homicides.
The RCMP notified Seabrook of his new posting in October of 2019 but the transfer was delayed by having to sell his family home and then by COVID-19. He feels the totality of his previous career will benefit his work on Salt Spring and its diverse demographic.
Unruly behaviour at Centennial Park has been the top issue Seabrook has heard about from community members since being on Salt Spring, and a major focus of his daily work. He pointed out that police are left to respond to the results of that behaviour and they wish to help with a solution, but at the same time the roots of the problem are not really a policing matter.
“The people there need supports and a place to go,” Seabrook said, “which is why I’m trying not to be too heavy-handed there. It’s not like the people there have a million choices and this is what they’ve chosen to do.”
Since coming to Salt Spring he’s been keeping a presence downtown, visiting people in the park and the surrounding businesses, and also attending Zoom meetings and conference calls with multiple community members. Over the past few weeks he’s stepped up those visits to at least once or twice a day whenever he’s on shift, and community members have reported a positive impact in the park environs.
“My objective is just hearing everyone’s voice and hearing how the police can assist,” Seabrook explained. “I’m a firm believer in the collaborative approach to solving issues.”
He added the police can be one of the partner groups working toward a solution, but the solution cannot rest on them alone.
Seabrook is certified as an expert in drug trafficking relating to a variety of different drugs, including cocaine, meth and fentanyl. This means he is often called to give testimony at trials with his opinion on whether a drug was in someone’s possession for the reasons of trafficking or not. He was one of only two officers with expert knowledge of fentanyl during the early years of the overdose crisis on Vancouver Island. He also has experience working with people with addictions and has compassion for their struggles, which he feels is a valuable tool for helping with the situation in downtown Ganges.
“I understand the challenges of people with addictions and the trauma that generally goes with it,” Seabrook said.
Seabrook noted the province was making headway on its campaign to reduce overdose tragedies, supporting people to keep naloxone kits and getting the message out to users to not use alone. COVID-19 appears to have reversed that work, because now people are told they have to be alone and many have reported their mental health has declined. His focus is normally on the trafficking end, which may not be a huge problem on the island but is nonetheless a concern.
“I haven’t seen a place where there hasn’t been trafficking, so the assumption is it’s here,” Seabrook said, noting he has recently made some related arrests on the island and will be watching the situation.
Another tool Seabrook brings to the table is being a good communicator who can acknowledge all the different sides of a situation. He also has his own experience of trauma, having survived the Queen of the North ferry-sinking with his family in 2006. Although that is not something he likes to talk about, he agreed all his different life experiences have combined to make him empathetic to people in crisis.
On a personal level, the sergeant and his family are happy to be on the island and to have received a warm welcome to their new home. Although Salt Spring is a limited posting detachment with a four-year maximum stay, Seabrook says he can’t foresee any reason they would want to leave before that.
“It’s a really good place to work and it’s a great group of people, both the members and the support staff. Everyone lives here and wants to make the community a great place to live. It’s a passion for people,” he said.