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Sundre peace officer wants to build proverbial bridges

Robert Plews, who served 34 years in the British military before becoming a peace officer in Sundre, says communication is crucial part of path toward improving trust
Robert Plews, who served in the British military for 34 years, moved to Sundre in April of 2023 and about two months ago became the municipality's new part-time community peace officer. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE – The municipality’s newest part-time community peace officer is on a mission to keep open the lines of communication with the community on the path to improving trust.

Robert Plews, who became Sundre’s new bylaw officer earlier this year, told the Albertan that he prefers the “old school” philosophy of encouraging conversations between the members of the community and local police or peace officers and invites anyone to come up and say hi.

“I like to be out and about,” said Plews, adding he endeavours to be visible as much as possible within the three days per week when he’s on shift.

“Communication is definitely key, and I’m trying to build that trust across the community to ensure that they can speak to us freely without any repercussion.”

Plews said that while some people are receptive to engaging in a conversation with him and that he always enjoys a good chat, he also recognizes that others might become a bit “standoffish” when they see a uniform.

“I want to break the stigma down – the uniform is not the enemy. We are there to help and assist,” he said. “Feel free to talk to us.”

Originally from England and with the accent to prove it, Plews served in the British military for 34 years. Although a soldier by trade, Plews – who has two brothers in the military – said his family’s background also involves farming.

“The last six and a bit years have been working alongside the Canadian Armed Forces in CFB Suffield,” he said, adding before relocating to the Sundre area in April of 2023 that he and his wife had previously lived in Medicine Hat.

They were first introduced to the Sundre area about two years ago on a visit to see some friends and the couple “fell in love with the place. I believe in fate and things happen for a reason, and this place drew us in,” he said.

“The mountains just light me up every day.”

Working at Koch Fuel in Sundre for a spell, the opening of the part-time peace officer’s position with the municipality immediately appealed to his sense of structure as well as service to community that he over the decades had developed during a diverse career in the military that included roles ranging from guarding the queen to handling canines as well as deployments to various operational theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This job sort of really hit the nail,” he said.

That same sense of community service combined with a craving for camaraderie had also compelled him to join the Sundre Fire Department’s ranks shortly after coming to town even before becoming a community peace officer.

That opportunity provided “a great transition from being in the military into civilian life,” he said about becoming a volunteer, paid-on-call firefighter.

“I want to pay back,” he said.

Plews had actually met Sundre’s full-time community peace officer Sam Zhao, who is also a volunteer firefighter with prior military experience, at the 2022 Remembrance Day ceremony and further solidified that relationship through the fire department.

“But really it was the town what sort of attracted me and the people in it and the sense of community,” he said.

“It’s people actually, and making a difference in the community,” he said when asked what he most enjoys about the job.

“Ninety-nine percent of my job at the moment, it seems I sort of talk to people; they’re just sort of mesmerized by my voice, I don’t know,” he said with a laugh.

Although the role of course involves enforcing the municipality’s bylaws, his preference is to first educate people as much as possible.

While he wants to work with people in the community to resolve issues that arise, he also wants to try and “bring barriers down” to get people – including neighbours – to work more with one another.

Even if Sundre has a relatively small population at fewer than 3,000, he said the community nevertheless has a breadth of diversity. To date, things have been going well, and Plews said he’s met many interesting people along the way.

The biggest hurdle he’s faced so far is the limited number of hours in a day, said Plews, who also wants to find more time to volunteer at the Royal Canadian Legion Sundre Branch #223.

“My main challenge is, there is not enough of me,” he said.

Regardless, he expressed no regrets and even seems to relish the role even if he’s still learning the ropes.

“Every day is a school day as they say and it’s great; that’s what keeps me enthused,” he said. “It feeds me, this line of work.”

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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