Thom takes to travelling as retirement looms

After more than a decade in Oak Bay, travel, family and humanitarian work shine on retirement horizon

Retiring Oak Bay Police Deputy Chief Kent Thom

Retiring Oak Bay Police Deputy Chief Kent Thom

Deputy Chief Kent Thom dons the Oak Bay police uniform for the final time Feb. 28.

Thom came here more than a dozen years ago from the Edmonton Police Service.

“I’ve worked with Kent for almost three years and it’s been a pleasure,” said Chief Constable Andy Brinton. “He’s always a professional and a gentleman. He’s provided an excellent level of service to the community in the time that he’s been here.”

Thom says it was a family decision to retire.

“They were really instrumental in helping me decide to pull the plug,” he said.

The plan starting next month is to relax, travel and spend more time with family (mom is, after all, 88) and friends.

He and wife Debbie Thom may amp up the humanitarian work, building on what they’ve done in Africa and Central America in the past. They also helped with the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We’ve travelled a little bit and helped build water purification systems and homes and schools. We’ve really benefitted from the experiences,” Thom said. “You’re seeing the cultures of where you’re travelling … it’s a huge education, but it’s also something that helps you appreciate what you have.”

Thom served with Edmonton Police Service for 25 years before coming on in Oak Bay more than 12 years ago.

“There have been ups an downs but overall … I’ve really learned to appreciate the people in Oak Bay, from residents to council and all of the municipal staff. I was learning all the time.”

Thom spent the last nine and a half years in a leadership role, earned about a month before September 2007.

In a home on King George Terrace, Peter Lee killed his wife, Sunny Park, their son Christian and Sunny’s parents before taking his own life.

“That was probably one of the most high profile incidents involving the police in Oak Bay history,” Thom said. “If you’re faced with an extreme situation off the bat, you learn … learn from mistakes and develop from those mistakes.”

In the weeks before, Sunny complained about domestic violence to three municipal police agencies. Despite the tragedy where five people lost their lives, Thom says, careful not to diminish that aspect, “a lot of good things came out of it.”

“It resulted in steps taken by the region to effectively deal with domestic violence,” Thom said. The Regional Domestic Violence Unit, put in place in 2009, takes a multidisciplinary approach to high-risk domestic violence situations across the Capital Regional District.

With some experience leaving the Oak Bay department – Sgt. Dave Prill also retired late last year – he has confidence in the new officers hired late last year, Const. Sandrine Perry and Const. Benoit Lanthier, and a third officer expected to join the ranks this month.

“They’re really adjusting well to working here in Oak Bay,” Thom said. “They’re positive, hard-working, knowledgeable people.”

They’re “on board” with a different expectation of services in Oak Bay.

“People will call for assistance … here they (officers) often have the luxury of responding to calls other busier departments can’t,” Thom said.

He’s also confident in the police board and chief, particularly finding a new deputy – a process that started at the end of January.

“I think Oak Bay is in pretty good hands,” Thom said.

The process to fill the role started in January, and is open both in, and outside the department,

“He’s quite well networked with the other police leaders in the region, that’s really helped Oak Bay,” Brinton said. “I’m sure whoever fills his role we’ll be looking forward to them operating at that same level.”