After a lifetime in uniform, Rick Anthony is enjoying a little down time since retiring from the Oak Bay Police Department.
“It’s an honourable calling and I will miss it,” Anthony said. “It’s time to look to new challenges while I’ve still got a lot of years left in me.”
Anthony retired, after 32 years of policing, last month.
“He certainly had the best interests of the community and the department at heart. That’s the place he came from, his motivation all came from that base,” said chief Andy Brinton. “Even though he was here three and a half years, he made contributions to the department that will be long-lasting.”
Anthony spent the past few years in front of cameras and offering public information sessions as the community liaison officer for Oak Bay.
“I’ve put myself out there because it’s important for people to know who we are behind the badge,” he said. “Behind the badge and the uniform we’re still humans.”
The Oak Bay-raised Anthony attended St. Michaels University School before graduating Oak Bay High. His dad – of the same name– was also a reserve officer so it wasn’t unusual to see the younger Anthony hanging about. At 19 he donned the Oak Bay police reserve uniform himself. His first gig as a career cop was in Vancouver with CPR Police for three and a half years.
“Being an Island boy and a Victoria boy I really wanted to get back,” Anthony said. He set sail for the Island with a VicPD position in 1987, a department he remained dedicated to for 25 years.
“We had typewriters and Wite-Out, there was no email. We had computers but they were used for only a few things, we wrote our reports by hand or on typewriter,” Anthony recalls. “Things like that make me feel old.”
Over the decades police officers explored and introduced new non-lethal measures, cell phones became prolific and social media the norm.
“It was a really exciting time to be a cop. We watched a city grow up,” he said of his time with VicPD.
Some changes, he implemented. Modelled after a similar program in Seattle, with VicPD Anthony developed and implemented the first police mountain bike section in B.C. with retired officer Darren Laur.
“It was a total kick-ass team. We were making arrests, we could get across town faster than a car,” he said. “Now you can’t find a department without a bike squad.”
While leaving Victoria was a difficult decision, he was already involved in numerous regional and local community groups when he returned to his roots in 2012.
“I was looking to pour more energy into community policing … When they hired me I was over the moon. It was hard to adjust going from high-octane, full-on policing to getting fewer calls a day, but those calls are important for the people making those calls and you get to spend hours with people if you need to,” he said. “Oak Bay’s got a pretty good assembly of people who are invested in the community. The outreach – and to be able to pour more time into a call or investigation – all cops want to do that.”
Last year he was awarded a chief’s commendation of merit for work that took that extra time to develop.
His commendation came from a longer-term project spurred by a moment’s notice that something wasn’t right for a pair of elderly residents. It lay the groundwork for an an elderly neglect/abuse recognition and awareness plan that helps officers in the region recognize situations where help is needed and provides resources for officers to connect with outside agencies and organizations quickly and early.
“That focus around senior safety will continue and he was really the leader in all that,” Brinton said. “It was really important to him to maintain that relationship with the business community and social support agencies in the area. There are some relationships that he built, that will continue.”
Anthony’s 2001 secondment to the United Nations mission in Kosovo was a life-changing career highlight.
“We were over there during 9/11 so it was an interesting time to be in a foreign land with terrorists and strangers,” he said, adding the region averaged 70 murders a month. “We had 190 traffic fatalities in six months.”
There he developed and commanded the first UN Police Helicopter Unit and flew on 85 missions.
“We were going to a war zone, there was no combat going on, but there was a lot of gunfire, turf wars with gangs and organized crime. Lots of weapons trafficking and human trafficking and we were in the middle of all of it. There’s an intensity and an adrenaline rush that goes with that,” he said. “You come home with a different perspective and don’t take anything for granted.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
While enjoying a little downtime, at 52 Anthony says he’s simply “too young to sit around.”
“The people I’ve worked for and worked with have been for the most part extraordinary. I wouldn’t be retiring with the opportunities and experiences I’ve had if it hadn’t been for some of those extraordinary leaders,” he said. “Oak Bay has been a perfect place to end my career. I’m so proud of the community.
“I’m looking forward to my next opportunity.”