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Head of Whistler RCMP retiring this month

Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair remembered as keen investigator who led by example



A lot of cops will tell you their most recent posting was their favourite.

But for the head of the Whistler RCMP detachment, that's not just lip service.

"This truly was the best posting ever," said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, who will be officially hanging up the blues this month after a distinguished 30-year career with the RCMP.

LeClair's retirement comes after a nine-year stint as operations NCO for the Whistler and Pemberton detachments, ushering the resort through its Olympic year in 2010 and playing a key role in several high-profile cases.

"He has been such a wonderful face of the RMCP in our community," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "He's very approachable, he's very knowledgeable, and he's very involved with the community with things like search and rescue, for example. He's definitely going to be missed."

LeClair's career began in 1986 while attending the University of PEI in Charlottetown. Enrolled in the business program there, he said he "fully intended" to follow that career path until a four-month job as a summer constable opened his eyes to the world of policing.

After completing his training in Regina, LeClair was then posted to the Burnaby detachment, where he worked in both the Serious Crime and Street Crime units. From there, he was promoted to constable and was eventually charged with heading Richmond's and, later, Coquitlam's, Serious Crime sections. He also worked with the RCMP's emergency response team during that time, a period that helped inform his later work in Whistler.

Throughout his postings in the Lower Mainland, LeClair was a regular face in the resort, organizing Whistler RCMP's ski patrol program. It was there that he made a lasting impression on Norm McPhail, the former head of the detachment and the current GM of community and corporate services for the RMOW.

"We got to talking and he had quite an interest in Whistler," McPhail recalled. "A sergeant's position came open at the Whistler detachment, and I sort of coached Steve along to apply for the role. So Steve came up and took on that role (in 2007) and not only assisted us further with the ski patrol program but was also involved with the search and rescue (SAR) program."

LeClair's legacy will be forever linked to his work alongside Whistler and Pemberton's search and rescue teams. Not only did he help foster Mounties' close relationship with those volunteer groups, but he could also often be found assisting on the ground, something no other detachment commander had done previously. To this day, he continues to dedicate some time every summer to the case of two hikers, Jonathan Jette and Rachel Bagnall, who went missing from the Pemberton backcountry in 2010.

"Steve has been the first detachment commander that has truly embraced search and rescue," said Whistler Search and Rescue manager Brad Sills. "He's gone to great extents, and I think more than most he understands the seriousness of search and rescue... and that it is an emergency the same as any other emergency a police officer is charged with. Rather than just delegating it to the SAR group, Steve has actively pursued it along with us and has been an unbelievable asset to the community."

He'll also be remembered as a "hands-on" officer who led by example and possessed a natural inclination towards investigative work.

"He's an operational-minded policeman, so he's out there and he knows the job well. He knows how to get from Point A to Point B and he definitely knows how to take the young guys along and show them the ropes," McPhail said.

LeClair also made a point of getting out from behind the desk and engaging directly with the community he serves.

"Communicating with the public is important," he said. "If you're doing a liquor seizure, you can do it in a way that's not negative. There (can be) some positive interaction with the public even when you're dealing with them when they're not having their best day."

It's clear LeClair leaves some big shoes to fill, and looking ahead he believes there are three clear priorities his replacement should focus on: property crime, the resort's long-troubled May long weekend, and highway and traffic safety.

Although his last day on the job is June 9, LeClair intends to continue doing contract work in Whistler and serve as a reservist constable following the summer. His replacement is expected for the fall and Sgt. Rob Knapton will serve as acting Staff Sgt. until then.


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