Nanaimo’s top cop retires

NANAIMO – Supt. Norm McPhail retiring after two years at helm of Nanaimo detachment.

Nanaimo RCMP detachment’s commanding officer Supt. Norm McPhail is hanging up his hat after 32 years with the force.

McPhail is leaving after two years commanding the Nanaimo detachment to become the general manager of community and corporate services for the municipality of Whistler.

McPhail, 50, joined the RCMP two weeks after his 19th birthday and held postings in Richmond, Whistler and the Sea to Sky district, as government liaison during the 2010 Olympics and other positions on the Island including head of Vancouver Island RCMP Traffic Services before taking over as Nanaimo detachment superintendent in 2011.

Of his accomplishments in Nanaimo, McPhail said he is most proud of the creation of the Nanaimo RCMP Strategic Plan, a community policing plan that maps out the ongoing and changing resource and financial requirements to maintain sustainable policing in the community.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said McPhail has left an indelible mark on the detachment with his vision for policing in Nanaimo.

“He really worked hard at ensuring we had a continued relationship with the community,” O’Brien said. “He realized that we serve the community and it’s essential that we’re in partnerships with the community. Partnerships for Supt. McPhail were extremely important and I think we’re going to reap the benefits for the foreseeable future as a result of the work that he spearheaded.”

One of the crowning achievements of his career, McPhail said, was to come to Nanaimo. He had bought property in Nanaimo while he worked in Richmond, but never managed to get transferred here. Ironically the property was sold just prior to McPhail finally getting his transfer to Nanaimo, which meant he had to reinvest upon moving here.

“I always wanted to work here as a constable, never mind as the commander, so to actually get here and sit in the big chair, which I never imagined when I started could ever happen,” he said. “So it’s with a heavy heart that I do this because it’s a great operation. The people here work so hard. They’re so dedicated and they deal with such high-profile issues and … the community supports them well. City council and city staff support us well and understand the difficulties of the job.”

The new job in Whistler dashes his dream of retiring in Nanaimo, but the fact that his spouse already owns a home in Whistler takes a little sting out of the move.

“But it will be an excellent opportunity for me as well,” McPhail said. “The skill set I have here I can take there and duplicate. It’ll be different because the RCMP is a paramilitary organization, but really it’s about the people and about public service so it should work out great.”

McPhail officially retires from the force in February, but leaves Nanaimo Oct. 4. His last official community function will be emceeing the Red Serge Gala fundraiser for Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock Sunday (Sept. 29).

“I never thought I’d be going yet, but that’s how things go,” McPhail said.

Insp. Al O’Donnell will take over McPhail’s position and Staff Sgt. Sarab Rupa will move into the operations officer’s position until the city hires a new superintendent.

Potential replacements will have to meet with the mayor and city council to discuss their vision for the future of policing in Nanaimo.

“That person will have to meet the approval of the city fathers,” O’Brien said. “Somebody who’s like-minded, like Supt. McPhail was, so that’s going to be extremely important.”