Helping vulnerable people in crisis is a Metro Vancouver Transit Police priority*, and Constable Gwen Ranquist plays a key role in helping us deliver on this commitment. As our department’s Client Services Officer, she works to ensure that transit passengers who are affected by mental health challenges receive the support they need to use transit safely.
“I have seen how police response to the mentally ill in our communities has changed from a criminal approach to a medical and solution based approach” says Cst. Ranquist, who has worked in policing since the early 1980s. “There are many people riding the transit system with mental illness that come in contact with our officers. My goal is to seek opportunities to provide assistance through the community and not the criminal justice system, unless it is necessary.”
Cst. Ranquist offers support and mentoring to Transit Police officers, to ensure they have the skills and resources to provide effective help. She manages files where there are repeated calls to police regarding the same individual, and creates solution-oriented policing strategies by working together with a variety of healthcare and community outreach partners to assist those people at their point of need.
“It is important that people who need help be connected with the support they require to live with stability and care within the community,” says Cst. Ranquist. “I would like to see that the Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers and Client Services bridge that gap between clients, health authorities and our jurisdictional partners.”
*Metro Vancouver Transit Police has four operational priorities: helping vulnerable people in crisis, reducing sexual offences, reducing frontline workplace assaults and building system resiliency. Read more about our priorities.
Community policing is at the heart of everything we do at Metro Vancouver Transit Police (MVTP). Our approach is exemplified by the Community Engagement Team (CET). Each member of the team has a unique combination of skills and life experience that allow them to connect with the communities they serve. Last week, the CET welcomed two new members.
Constable Shiraaz Hanif joined the team as the Neighbourhood Police Officer (NPO) for East Vancouver and the North Shore. Cst. Hanif is no stranger to building relationships on behalf of our department, having spent years working to strengthen the relationship between MVTP and the Muslim Community (of which he is a member). He takes over the NPO role from Cst. Kirk Rattray, who moved into the role of Indigenous Liaison Officer. Follow Cst. Hanif on Twitter.
Constable Miles Teitelbaum joined the team as the NPO for New Westminster and South Burnaby. Cst. Teitelbaum previously worked on the CET in a temporary role that included participating in the Lower Lonsdale Project. Cst. Teitelbaum is taking over the NPO role from Cst. Justin Biggs. Follow Cst. Teitelbaum on Twitter and Instagram.
The two new members join seven other Transit Police officers that round out the team.
Sergeant Cheryl Simpkin heads the Community Engagement Team. She is influenced in her work by her Indigenous heritage and background in working with people who are affected by challenges with mental health or addiction. Follow Sgt. Simpkin on Twitter.
Constable Kirk Rattray is the MVTP Indigenous Liaison Officer. He draws on his Tahltan First Nation heritage to bring understanding between police and indigenous people in the region MVTP serves. In addition to building relationships with Indigenous communities, Cst. Rattray provides training for Transit Police officers and direction for our department on Indigenous issues. Follow Cst. Rattray on Twitter.
Constable Gwen Ranquist works in Client Services, providing expertise in issues related to mental health. Vulnerable people rely on the transit system to get them where they need to go and Cst. Ranquist is there to ensure they can do so safely. Follow Cst. Ranquist on Twitter.
Constable Julien Ponsioen is the NPO for downtown Vancouver. A former paramedic, he ensures that every Transit Police officer and civilian employee is trained on how to administer Naloxone. He also serves as the department’s liaison to the LGBTQ2S+ community of which he is a part. If you’re interested in learning more about the upcoming launch of our first Community Policing Centre, follow Cst. Ponsioen on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Constable Bruce Shipley is the NPO for Richmond and Vancouver’s West Side. With an interest in the issues that affect vulnerable people, such as those who are homeless, Cst. Shipley is on the frontlines offering outreach and resources. Follow Cst. Shipley on Twitter.
Constable Darren Chua is the NPO for Surrey and Langley. Currently, however, he is on temporary assignment working as part of the Integrated Quarantine Act Response and Support Team (IQARAS), ensuring that the Province’s Covid regulations are being followed. The rest of the CET is looking after Cst. Chua’s area in his absence. Follow Cst. Chua on Twitter and Instagram.
Constable Nicole Dennis is the NPO responsible for municipalities that stretch from North Burnaby to the West Coast Express Station in Mission, including the Tri-Cities, Belcarra, Anmore, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. A certified Drug Recognition Expert, Cst. Dennis focuses on traffic and pedestrian safety around transit hubs. This year, Cst. Dennis joined with other first responders to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer as a Cops for Cancer: Tour de Coast participant. Follow Cst. Dennis on Twitter.
This month, Metro Vancouver Transit Police was proud to welcome Constable Kirk Rattray into the newly created role of Indigenous Liaison Officer. Cst. Rattray moved into the role after serving four years as the Neighbourhood Police Officer for East Vancouver and the North Shore, and over a year in patrol prior to that.
Creating the position of Indigenous Liaison Officer has been a priority for Metro Vancouver Transit Police for a number of years. We are indebted to the Indigenous groups who offered their wisdom to us, and to reports such as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Final Report and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, which have been invaluable sources of guidance for our department. It is our hope that the position will bring collaboration and understanding that will help guide our department toward better serving the Indigenous community.
Cst. Rattray is a natural fit for this pivotal role. He has a long history of drawing on his Tahltan First Nation heritage to build trust and partnerships between Indigenous communities and police. Prior to joining Transit Police in late 2014, Cst. Rattray served with the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service for nearly four years, and the Winnipeg Police Service for 16 years before that.
Thanks to Cst. Rattray’s tireless work, plans are in the works to launch the Blue Eagle Community Youth Cadet project at Metro Vancouver Transit Police in partnership with the VPD and the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Center. Under his leadership, the program will serve to empower Indigenous youth aged 13-15 by offering mentorship, building leadership skills, and supporting them as they discover their potential. . Cst. Rattray has experience in this area, having created a youth cadet program while working with Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police.
“I am honoured to represent the Metro Vancouver Transit Police as the First Indigenous Liaison Officer. I look forward to, not only improving current relationships that have been built in the Indigenous community in Vancouver, but I also look forward to developing new partnerships in the diverse Indigenous communities of the Metro Vancouver region.” – Cst. Kirk Rattray
“I have known Kirk since he was working with Indigenous peoples during the 2010 Olympics. I can honestly say he is a man of great and gentle character who is humble and honest, and I am proud to call him a dear friend. I am so honored and proud to announce Kirk as the first full time Indigenous Liaison officer for the Metro Vancouver Transit Police.” – Sgt. Cheryl Simpkin, Community Engagement Team
To welcome Constable Rattray into his new role, Transit Police hosted a traditional smudging and cleansing ceremony. Our Senior Management Team was proud to participate with honoured guests that included Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation who welcomed us to her ancestral land, and Norm Leech of the Stl’al’imc First Nation who performed the ceremony.
Constable Clint Hervias did not expect to be travelling to the Philippines in early 2020. And he certainly didn’t expect to get stranded there with no way to return to Canada.
“I left Canada on February 12 after getting news that my dad was sick and intubated in the ICU, in Manila,” says Cst. Hervias. “After he died, I flew with his body to his hometown of Culasi on Panay Island for the burial. He was laid to rest on March 16 and the following day, the entire province got locked down. All flights were grounded and seaports got shut down, and there was no way for me to get back to Manila for an international flight home.”
Cst. Hervias is just one of many Canadians stranded overseas, and unable to return home. Making the best of the situation, Cst. Hervias is taking the community-focused approach of his work as a Metro Vancouver Transit Police officer and using it to help the vulnerable people in his current community.
“The quarantine here is really hurting the people,” he explains. “People here live day to day on an average salary of about $10 per day. A missed day of work means there’s no food on the table. But there’s a bond of community, and that’s what got the conversation started among those of us who were in a position to help.”
Teaming up with other community members, creating relationships that have inspired food donations and with the assistance of the Philippine National Police, Cst. Hervias is helping to lead outreach efforts to remote communities around Culasi.
“We’ve headed out to the rural, mountainous region of the province to check in with the more neglected barangays [villages],” says Cst. Hervias “We were also able to visit nearby Mararison Island to provide some significant relief and support for the community there, which is very isolated and hard hit.”
Though he is looking forward to the day that he can return home, Cst. Hervias is grateful for his recent experiences. “You know, growing up in Africa and in Canada, I missed being surrounded by my family and my cultural heritage. Being here and getting to know my community inspires me.”
Constable Eric Olson will be riding 800 km on his road bike along the Sea to Sky corridor and through other cities in Greater Vancouver this September as a participant in the Tour de Coast to support Cops for Cancer and raise funds for cancer research, especially pediatric cancer. We interviewed Cst. Olson to learn more about him.
What did you do before joining Metro Vancouver Transit Police?
I attended UBC in Vancouver to study Science and Kinesiology while playing Rugby for the Thunderbirds for three of my four years there. I worked several different full and part-time jobs through high school and university, including roofing, throwing hay bales, landscaping, automotive repair, and catering, before turning my eye to Policing in 2015. In the years before I started with Transit Police, I was working Security at a busy shopping centre in Surrey and for the BC Corrections Service at the Youth Custody Center in Burnaby.
What made you submit an application for the Tour de Coast?
I was inspired by Cops for Cancer all through my school years growing up. We would regularly hold fundraising events for the tour and cheer on the riders as they rode through the hallways. Cancer has touched several people close to me, and childhood cancer is the worst of all.
Also, I have trained and played sports my whole life, however have never formally “cycled” on a road bike. I loved the idea of taking on a new physical challenge and raising money for a great cause.
What are you looking forward to the most in your Cops for Cancer journey?
I’m looking forward to all the money we will raise that will support children and their families who are battling cancer, as well as funding crucial cancer research. With my science background, I found the presentation on the research they are currently conducting to be fascinating and exciting.
If you are willing/able to make a donation for this very worthwhile cause, please follow the link to my personal donation page.
What is the best part of working for Metro Vancouver Transit Police?
The best part of working for Transit Police are the people. I have a great partner and a great squad in D-East. Not everyone gets paid to hang out with their friends and arrest bad people, and I get to do both!
What is a career highlight so far?
A career highlight for me was completing the British Columbia Tactical Officer Course (ERT Basic) put on by the Abbotsford Police Department in January 2019! It was a ton of fun and I learned so much!
If you didn’t work in law enforcement, what career would you choose?
I’d like to think that I could have become a medic or pilot with the Canadian Forces, but I guess we’ll never know. I could also see myself having been a mechanic or a logger. I love working with my hands, being outdoors, and running chain saws.
How do you like to spend your time on your days off?
I love spending time riding my motorcycle, going hiking and camping, going to the gym, cooking and spending time with family and friends.
Recommend one of each: book, movie, TV show.
Book – On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Movie – 21 Jump Street
TV Show – Forged in Fire
What’s an important topic that doesn’t get as much media attention as the mainstream ones like fentanyl or homelessness?
Organ donation. You can follow this link to register as an organ donor and also to check your status if you think you have already registered.
On November 21, at the Canadian Urban Transit Association Conference in Toronto, Metro Vancouver Transit Police Sergeant Wendy Hawthorne will receive the 2018 Leadership Award in Excellence to acknowledge the benefits our transit system has gained thanks to her specialized expertise in graffiti on transit. We caught up with Wendy for an interview before she heads off into retirement at the end of this year.
Q: What is your role at Metro Vancouver Transit Police?
A: I am one of the Client Services Sergeants, a “Jack of all trades and a master of some”. We work on addressing identified issues and concerns that are reported by patrol members, our partners in jurisdictional policing and within the community, and TransLink Stakeholders. I have been very lucky to specialize and develop an in-depth knowledge on graffiti, safety education, and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design reporting.
Q: When did you first start working for transit in Metro Vancouver?
A: I started with the Metro Transit Security Service in early 1984 as a Transit Security Officer. I worked the graveyard shifts at the Carrall Street Garage, at the Cambie Street Garage, and the False Creek Transit Centre. Our first office was above the tire shop at the rear of the Oakridge Transit Centre with 4 Mobile Patrol Investigators and 4 plainclothes security, which I was one of. We moved to 1296 Station Street, across from Main Street Station after the Skytrain opened and then to 307 Columbia Street in New West before moving to our current headquarters in Sapperton.
I never would have dreamt as I worked at Expo 86 as one of the original Metro Vancouver Transit Special Provincial Constables that 35 years later I would be retiring as a Sergeant with Transit Police, a recognized and respected armed police force and Canada’s only Transit Police.
Q: How would you describe your career path?
A: It has been an incredible journey of laughter, frustration, joy, pride and challenges. Community policing and crime prevention have always been my passion and I was fortunate to be assigned to the position of the Client Services Sergeant in May 2012. I could not be more proud of the fact that as I retire, my position has led to the creation and great success of the Neighbourhood Police Team.
Q: What is one highlight of your career?
A: A few years ago I was training a new bus operator class at Vancouver Transit Centre. After the class, one of the new operators called me aside. The operator said, “Wendy! Do you remember me?” I didn’t, but there was something familiar about her. She told me her first name….and I knew immediately who she was! As a youth she had been at extreme risk, deeply involved in vandalism on the transit system, and a prolific graffiti tagger whose graffiti was featured in the news, along with many other challenges.
I gave her a hug and said with tears in my eyes, “You Made It!”
She looked at me and said, “You and [a VPD Sergeant] saved my life!”
I had often wondered how her life had turned out. I told her that her success made my work worthwhile. To have someone who was so at risk overcome so many challenges and see the success that she had achieved filled me with gratitude and pride.
Q: Have you learned any important life lessons on the job?
The most integral qualities for this career are work ethic and integrity.
I never forgot where I have come from. Humility is a wonderful trait.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Whether they continue to get my respect is up to them…. not me!
Never underestimate the power of a smile.
Q: If you won a free vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: I would love to go to Hawaii in July 2019 with my husband and renew our vows on our 40th wedding anniversary.
Q: What book, movie and TV show would you recommend?
A: Book: The Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement Officers
Movie: A tie between “Shrek” and “The Man Who Would Be King”
TV Show: Little Britain
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I reflect on my career with great joy and pride. I am so grateful for the relationships I have made and the reputation that I have earned. I am proud of our department and the success that we have seen and to recognize that I was one of the pioneers and ground breakers. It has been a great ride.