Cop culture

Oak Bay officer reaches out to community to share his passion for policing

Oak Bay Police Const. Davinder Dalep has mentored and supported Oak Bay Police Reserve Const. Divjeet Maholtra through the younger man's service to the community.

Const. Davinder Dalep has a passion for policing and his community.

Since starting work with Oak Bay police in 1998, Dalep has made it a personal mission to share his passion with others.

As part of his mission, he often attends the Sikh Temple to speak to children attending summer camps.

“We do a Q and A, the kids usually have a lot of questions and I cover the basics, alcohol and drug awareness, bullying, social media awareness and I talk about recruiting and the reserve program,” he said.

Dalep spent part of his career as the school resource officer, teaching the WITS and DARE programs to youngsters.

Dalep was the last recruit hired by the Oak Bay department 16 years ago. The majority of its members have previous experience with the RCMP or other municipal departments.

He was inspired to join the police through his cousin Dillon Sahota, a sergeant with Central Saanich Police. “I was watching the news and I saw the graduating class of BC Police and the camera panned to one person and my heart (jumped) it was my cousin,” said Dalep. “I asked him lots of questions. How to get in – he told me education.”

Dalep received a diploma in criminology and volunteered at the youth custody and sobering centre, before being hired on by Oak Bay Police.

“The community of Oak Bay is unique,” he said. “Visible minorities were something they never had before in their 100-year history.”

Dalep faced discrimination in his career, but says, “it’s in the past.”

The only visible minority officer in the 25-member organization in 2010, Dalep charged that he was unfairly criticized, overlooked for a promotion and left out of a special assignment due to his Indo-Canadian ethnicity. The case was resolved in 2012 and Dalep withdrew his complaint.

“It’s not an easy process for both sides,” he said of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. “The changes I have seen have all been positive.”

He credits former Chief Const. Mark Fisher for the change in attitude, calling him “a positive influence in the organization.”

That positive influence continues in the Oak Bay force today, he added.

Dalep himself, helps drive the cultural diversity of the police.

“He is a big mentor to me personally and on the job. He has a very helpful personality,” said Divjeet Malholtra, a 21-year-old Reserve Constable with Oak Bay Police.

Malholtra’s family came from India’s Punjab region in 2008 when he was a 15-year-old with his heart set on becoming a police officer.

“The sole purpose we came to Canada is so I could follow my dream,” he said. “I had total support from my parents. My mom was a bit hesitant from the danger aspect of it, but I didn’t have to convince her.”

Malholtra, a Saanich resident, attended both Belmont and Spectrum secondary schools and is now a criminology student at the University of Victoria.

“Coming to a different country you have to adapt to change,” he said. “There were many challenges at first, especially for my parents, they are still adapting after six years.”

While Dalep is a Sikh, he does not wear a turban. Malholtra on the other hand, will not give it up.

“My dad wore a turban, he was in the military a little bit before his banking career. My grandfather did military service and he wore a turban. … My family is not religious, I’m not baptized a Sikh, I don’t have a long beard, it’s more a cultural thing to have it on. I believe in it and I don’t see it as a negative aspect of my life, I cherish it. If it makes a difference to people, that’s their problem,” the young man said.

The people of Oak Bay don’t seem to have a problem with it though.

“Canada in general is becoming more multicultural,” said Oak Bay Police Chief Const. Andy Brinton. “A lot of the time we find people who come from a place where they’ve had a bad experience with police in their home country. We have to gain their trust – if we’re trying to investigate a crime and (they’re afraid) to talk to investigators … the crime is not solved and they continue to be victimized. Having people with different backgrounds in the organization gives us the ability to bridge that gap and gain their trust – that’s huge for us.”

“I work alongside a lot of wonderful colleagues,” said Dalep. “I take a significant amount of pride in my profession as a police officer on and off the job.”

Malholtra spends 20 hours a week on reserve duty. “I love everything about the community: the events, the people I meet, building relationships,” he said. “Doing ridealongs you get to know a lot about the job. It’s continuous learning. The officers you work with are happy to give you all the knowledge they have.”

“I admire people like Davinder. It’s been challenging for him opening the door for other people like us. But he’ll always tell you, ‘no matter where you are from, if you believe in the same goals and values that others believe, you can be anything you want be, no matter what.’”