Supt. Syd Lecky has spent 26 years with the RCMP in B.C. and he’s a member of Peskotomuhkati First Nation
The next commanding officer of the RCMP’s “G” Division in the Northwest Territories is an Indigenous man who’s spent 26 years working in B.C.
Supt. Syd Lecky will come to Yellowknife from Kamloops, B.C., this fall. He’ll be replacing Chief Supt. Jamie Zettler.
Lecky grew up in New Brunswick and is a member of the Peskotomuhkati First Nation.
Lecky joined Loren McGinnis on The Trailbreaker.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about yourself and why you wanted to come to the Northwest Territories.
I’ve had 26 years of experience within the RCMP, all of which has been in the province of British Columbia. But within the province, I’ve been in several regions, but most of my service was in the northern part of the province, so the northern living and northern life, I’m accustomed to, including some smaller communities.
I’ve been in charge of three detachments now as the detachment commander.
I am Indigenous and the most rewarding parts of my career have been working with Indigenous people.
In one of my previous roles, I was the advisory [non-commissioned-officer], they call it, for Indigenous policing here in the northern part of British Columbia, so responsible for almost 62 Indigenous communities that we would visit and participate in. And I think much of that experience, in conjunction with being a detachment commander, kind of positions me fairly well.
What do you think of as your first steps when you come here and take over the leadership?
Well, the first steps are to get to know the people. My priority is obviously to get to know the community leaders, especially with the territorial government, find out some of the nuances for the division. And you know, there’s a lot of issues historically that I need to be brought up to speed on, and I’m looking forward to that.
The N.W.T. has a very high crime rate. There are lots of challenges, lots of social issues, lots of historical issues. How do you approach that?
It’d certainly be premature for me to tell you that I’m going to come and there’s going to be some miraculous turnaround and that sort of thing. We have very capable detachment commanders who are doing their best and we’re just going to push ahead with that. The community leaders are the ones who know many of the challenges historically. I need to get the lay of the land and the background and understanding before I can really give you a well-informed comment on how we’re going to move forward.
But what I do know is life experience, work experience. I’m very much familiar with many of the institutional things that have brought us to where we are today as a society, the impact of residential schools, racism, systemic racism, and those are things that clearly will have to work in consultation with the communities to help and resolve.
There have been very public expressions of a lack of trust in the police. How do you confront that? How do you confront systemic racism in policing as you come North?
Well, you certainly have to lead by example. And I don’t know the history of commanding officers for the division. I may be the first Indigenous person, I don’t know, but I do know that everywhere I’ve been I’ve been able to express to those that we work with, whether it’s members or the communities, better appreciation and understanding of what brought us to where we are today. That does make a big change.
That said, there’s clearly issues we need to address.
What’s your approach to the morale of members in ‘G” division when you take over? What has been your approach to that support and helping people confront changes that need to be made, but also feel proud and comfortable in the role they’re in?
Well, there’s no question we’re trying to do a better job of supporting our members and staff. But that, I should say the stories I’ve been told by others who have worked up in “G” Division in the territories has been very positive. That said, there’s no question that police are under pressure more so now than ever before. And I ensure that our members and staff know that they’re supported, and I don’t forget staff.
We have a lot of people that work to support the RCMP … whether it’s … a clerk working in a detachment who are often living in smaller communities, we don’t forget them because they don’t get to leave when some of our members leave, oftentimes. They’re left with their families and relatives in those communities.
Policing generally, right now, is really having a tough time, a tough time recruiting, a tough time with retention of people. It’s a good time to become a police officer if you’re looking for an opportunity, especially if you’re from regions in the North.
How did you figure out you wanted to be a [police officer] in the first place?
Well, I was in university in Ontario and I had a summer job working with Canada Customs at the time and that kind of exposed me to the law enforcement side of work and I have a degree in economics, so it was kind of a little outside that area of expertise. I had visions of being a stockbroker at one point. Anyway, I got into the law enforcement side of things at that time and I did that for a number of years and then when I graduated I joined the police and I headed west.
I should mention I was born in New Brunswick, which is a very small community. We had a lot of respect for the RCMP, and that’s why the RCMP became the police service of choice for me, and I haven’t looked back.
-With files from Loren McGinnis
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Nunavik crime victims systematically shut out of Quebec compensation program, Radio-Canada
Finland: Police response times up to an hour slower in Arctic Finland, Yle News
Sweden: Police respond to rising burglaries in Swedish Lapland, Radio Sweden
United States: U.S. Justice Dept. awards $42 million in tribal grants to fight crime, help victims in rural Alaska, Alaska Public Media