Policing in small-town Canada isn't always what people might think. Some RCMP officers on Prince Edward Island say working in small or rural communities comes with the usual challenges and a few unique opportunities.
I was told I would be bored and I wouldn't be busy, but there hasn't been a boring moment since I arrived," says Cst. Sonet Sato, who first set foot in the province on Jan. 29, 2019 — two weeks after graduating from the RCMP's training academy.
Sato had policed in her native South Africa for six years before coming to Canada, where she worked several jobs including security at Vancouver International Airport.
By 2009, I wanted to get back into policing," says the 47-year-old, who brought her husband and three children with her to Kings District in eastern P.E.I. "
Here, I knew I'd have the opportunity to do some community policing."
The population of P.E.I. is small — about 140,000 — and spread out. In addition, the province has an economy based on agriculture and fishing, while tourism is an important industry in the summer.
Two dozen RCMP officers work in Kings District, which stretches from East Point to the Pownal area in the west. Two of the major towns in the area are Montague and Souris.
Problems and opportunities
Like other parts of Canada, police deal with traffic complaints, property crime, domestic disputes, and drug- and alcohol-related issues.
That's the reality of policing in a small area," says Sgt. Chris Gunn, the current acting district commander, who has spent years working in the RMCP across the country — doing everything from general duty work, to property crime units and the Canadian Air Carrier Protective Program.
However, he says working in the district also provides the chance for officers to learn more about the range of speciality occupations within the RCMP.
They do get opportunities to investigate a wide variety of Criminal Code infractions, provincial and federal laws and perform joint enforcement initiatives with both provincial and federal policing partners," says Gunn, citing work with Department of Fisheries and Oceans employees and local conservation officers.
Patrolling highways and streets has also taken an interesting twist in recent years with the arrival in the area of several Amish families who have brought along their primary means of transportation — a horse and buggy.
In March 2019, Cst. Robert Honkoop was first on the scene of a buggy-car collision near New Perth. Both drivers were uninjured.
He (the Amish driver) was thrown from the buggy and the horse suffered minor injuries," says Honkoop, who notes there have been a couple of similar incidents since and the issue is still a problem.
Under the law, as long as the buggy has a slow-moving-vehicle sign attached, it can use provincial roads.
Taking that extra step
Sato got to know some members of the Amish community. She's now working with her RCMP colleagues to develop a pamphlet warning motorists about sharing the roads with horse buggies.
That's a great part of policing, just getting to know the community — not just the Amish but everyone, young and old — so they know who I am and what the RCMP can do to help," says Sato.
Honkoop, 49, knows the province and its communities well, having lived in P.E.I. for most of his life. He joined the RCMP in 2009.
I dreamed about being a police officer since I was a kid. I didn't want to grow to be an old man, look back on my life and think, 'What if?'" he says.
Honkoop says big cities don't fit into his comfort zone and P.E.I. offers a great quality of life.
You're helping people and, at this stage of my life, this is what I'm interested in."