The shoes of a police officer are not easy to fill.
Every morning before work, Sooke RCMP Const. Matthew Kinnear, takes a moment to himself, says a prayer, and mentally prepares for what the day might bring.
“Before my shift, it’s important to get into a calm mindset, put any personal issues I have aside, and focus on helping the public,” explained Kinnear, who started at the Sooke detachment in January.
“You see the best and the worst in humanity at this job.”
Kinnear shuffled through a couple of letters he’s received from people in the past, and paused on one from a woman whose life he saved.
“I showed up to the scene, and this woman’s partner was totally drunk. He had beaten her to the point he thought she was dead,” recalled Kinnear.
The man was arrested by another officer, so Kinnear quickly went searching around the house for the woman, when he found her laying in the bedroom on her side, covered in blood.
Suddenly, she woke up and started screaming and panicking, so Kinneaar calmed her down. The ambulance was delayed by 45 minutes, and he noticed the woman start to doze off again.
“I knew I had to keep her awake or else she would fall into a coma. Her eyes were black and blue and swollen shut, all her teeth were missing, and her entire face was puffy,” Kinnear remembered. “I just kept talking to her, did my best to comfort her and tell her she was going to be OK.”
Eventually the ambulance paramedics arrived and took over, and a few months later, Kinnear received a letter from the woman, thanking him and telling him she’ll never forget him.
“Those kinds of things are hard, but there are also a lot of amazing things you see people do,” said Kinnear, mentioning a time he showed up to a scene where a citizen had rescued a driver from a burning vehicle.
“This job is both challenging and exhilarating. I am lucky to have my wife because if I have a bad day, she knows what it’s like. She understands, and helps me make sense of things,” he said.
Kinnear’s wife, Nancy Saggar, is also a police officer at the West Shore detachment. The two met while working together in Fort St. John, before deciding to move to Sooke.
“We felt it was time for change and the opportunity came for us to move to Sooke, so we took it, and we absolutely love it here,” said Kinnear, noting that Sooke’s unique character is what drew him and his wife here. “It feels like home, we can see ourselves living here for a long time.”
Before becoming a police officer, Kinnear was taking a master’s degree in physical geography at the University of B.C.
“I thought policing was really exciting, so when a friend recommended I join the RCMP, I just decided to go for it,” said Kinnear. “I want to make a difference in the world, and I thought becoming a police officer would be a good way for me to do that.”
Following his training in 2012, Kinnear was in Fort St. John for four years.
“You see a lot in policing that you wouldn’t see otherwise,” Kinnear reflected on his time in Fort St. John. “But I’m very fortunate to have policed there, because I learned a lot, and I think it really opened my eyes about the world. But coming here I’ve realized that each place has it’s own unique set of challenges.”
He said in Fort St. John, there was a lot drug crime and gang related activity, and in Sooke, there are more issues with break and enters because of how rural it is.
Kinnear added the Sooke RCMP often respond to calls from the public because there are so many people exploring outdoors, and to a lot of traffic related calls, specifically on Highway 14.
“There is no average day at work, you can sort of have a plan but it can change very quickly,” said Kinnear. “I like general police work because every day is a new day, but that can also bring a lot of stress.”
His duties generally revolve around responding to calls from the public, fighting crime, doing proactive work such as traffic enforcement, and getting involved in the community. RCMP also attend fires, accidents, animal issues, bylaw issues, suicides, and mental health issues.
“We go to everything, because with almost everything there is a potential for criminal activity,” said Kinnear.
Whatever Kinnear is faced with each day, he tries to deal with in the best way possible, and said the biggest challenge for him is when he can’t help someone but wishes he could.
“There can be a lot of repetition with this job. You see a lot of people going through the same struggles, or even sometimes the same person going through the same thing over and over. Whether it’s a bad relationship, or drug abuse, or anything,” said Kinnear. “It can get disheartening seeing that all the time, but I have to keep in mind that my job, fundamentally, is to protect the public, and to remove crime from the streets.”
Kinnear guessed that he has responded to more than 3,000 calls so far in his career. He has seen all sorts of things, but always tries to stay calm because people will often “react at the same level as he does.”
“The world we live in is so great but can be so cruel, and all I can do is try to make people feel safe. When I show up to an incident, I use my first name, show people empathy, tell them that there’s more to life and they deserve better. Whether or not that gets through to them, I’m not sure, but I think sometimes it’s what they need to hear,” said Kinnear.
“RCMP wear many hats, but we’re all human, and we’re all just trying to make a difference.”