Meeting up at a coffee shop near the detachment, Sgt. DeVries acknowledges that some of his fellow officers were a little dubious about the incorporation of “fluff” into their public image. But they are being won over as they see the resulting conversations and engagement that simply wouldn’t have happened had the force stuck with using social media only to issue copies of staid press releases. And they can’t help but appreciate the public’s frequent online comments expressing gratitude for the officers’ ongoing efforts to keep the community safe. After all, who doesn’t like getting a pat on the back every so often?
An English literature and philosophy graduate, Sgt. DeVries enjoys bringing both a creative and analytical mind to his role. Twenty-two years ago, when DeVries was a new officer, he says all media requests would have been sent straight to a watch commander, who more times than not would respond with a terse “no comment.” But times have changed, with the media liaison role gradually being developed and the force – like many institutions – becoming more transparent in its day-to-day workings.
Sgt. DeVries credits new North Vancouver Officer in Charge, Superintendent Ghalib Bhayani, with giving the media office even greater license, telling him that “[DeVries’] creativity is the limit.” DeVries and newly hired media office colleague Alexandra Yallouz are rising to the challenge, determined that citizens get a glimpse into some of the untold and unknown workings of the force that even DeVries hasn’t been aware of to date.
DeVries clearly has a great deal of respect for the fine work of his fellow officers. At the same time, he is determined that everyone on the force should see their role as one that is not just about law enforcement, but about healing the community. “We have a huge opportunity to show compassion every day,” he says, pointing out that even small gestures can be hugely impactful when someone is vulnerable or experiencing a difficult circumstance. It might just be a sandwich offered by a beat cop, or it might be the moving thoughts offered online to North Vancouver’s Iranian community following the devastating airplane crash in January. Building and maintaining trust – steadily, through means as humble as awarding someone a “randomly selected emoticon”– encourages people turn to police officers for help when they need it.
What can LynnValleyLife readers and local citizens do to help the RCMP?