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Winkler police welcome new chief

Lauren MacGill

The Winkler Police Service has chosen a replacement police chief, who starts in spring. Left to right: Deputy Police Chief Ryan Hunt, Police Board Chair Henry Siemens and Police Chief Rick Hiebert. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

The Winkler Police Service has chosen a replacement police chief, who starts in spring. Left to right: Deputy Police Chief Ryan Hunt, Police Board Chair Henry Siemens and Police Chief Rick Hiebert. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

WINKLER - 

The Winkler Police Service has announced who will be taking the job of police chief in the spring.

Long-time police service member Ryan Hunt is the new deputy chief, which means he will study under and eventually take over for the current chief of police Rick Hiebert when he retires at the end of March.

Hunt said being chosen for the role was a proud moment for him. “It’s a community that I really enjoy,” he said. “Most of my working career has been in Winkler and I’ve enjoyed the community. It’s going to be exciting to take the next step here.”

Hiebert said the announcement is well deserved. “I’ve definitely seen [Hunt] develop as a police officer,” he said. “His skills were evident right from the beginning. He’s definitely a really good fit. He’s a great character for the position and I think he’s going to do really well.”

“It’s really great for an organization to be able to promote from within,” he added. “It’s great for morale, it lets officers see that the police board recognizes the strengths we have within and gives officers something to work toward if they aspire to the same achievements.”

Hunt has been serving on the force for almost 16 years. “I always wanted to get into policing, even before I got out of high school,” he said. “Then I got into auto body instead. When I ended up selling my business Winkler Police Service was hiring at that time and I put in my application and was fortunate enough to be hired.”

Police Board Chair Henry Siemens said the department has been working on finding Hiebert’s replacement for the better part of a year now. “The more we looked at it, it ultimately just made the most sense for our service to look at one of our internal members,” he said. “When we met with [Hunt] we ended up at a place where the board really felt confident in the vision he was presenting.”

“He was presenting a vision to modernize the service, to enhance training for our members,” he added. “He really believes in the community involved policing model, so we felt really confident offering the position.”

Siemens said it will be a new era in policing in Winkler, as many new changes are taking place. “It’s been constant change for the last year,” he said. “We know that when we talk [about] modernizing the service there’s going to be some changes. The vast majority of that is probably going to involve making sure that our members have the newest education in terms of combating the crimes that we continue to see.”

When Hunt becomes the new police chief, he will be in charge of hiring his own replacement as deputy chief. Siemens anticipates that too will be someone from inside the force.

In his time working for the police service Hunt said he has already seen quite a few changes. Some of those changes include the hiring of new officers, including the three that were recently hired, and retirements across the service.

“The community has certainly grown a lot in that time as well,” he said.

Hunt acknowledged that the role of police chief will bring challenges, but said he feels ready. “I greet challenges head on,” he said. “I appreciate challenges, it’s always good to spread your wings. The men and women at the police service know their job really well and I’m going to lean on them. They’re going to make my job easier.”

Hunt said Hiebert’s vision of community policing is one he intends to build on. “He’s always had a cool head about him,” Hunt said. “He never jumps to a decision, he always takes time to think things through and come to a fair decision.”

Going forward, Hunt said drugs have been a growing concern with the force.  He cited recent drug busts that the force had carried out, saying that they will continue to crack down. “It seems like a lot of our crimes are precipitated by drug use,” he said. “[It’s] certainly a big concern that  we need to keep working toward.”