Pubdate: Mon, 01 Nov 2004
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2004 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


In the midst of increased public interest in the Whitehorse drug
problem, the Yukon's new police chief comes to the job as one of four
Mounties who put together the national police force's strategy to
combat organized crime.

Chief Supt. David Shewchuk, a career Mountie born and raised in
Winnipeg, took over the job of commanding officer of the Yukon's
M-Division this past summer after the former top cop, Darrell Madill,
headed east to take over command of the Manitoba division.

Shewchuk, 53, comes to the Yukon fresh from a four-year stint in
Calgary as the officer in charge of the national organized crime
initiative for the Northwestern Region, one of the four regions into
which the RCMP split the country.

In that role, he steered the big picture -- ensuring proper
intelligence was gathered and used properly, building partnerships
with other law enforcement and government agencies, as well as making
sure the money was spent on the most effective targets.

Organized crime is pretty simple -- it's in the business to make
money, as much money as possible.

"It's greed," said Shewchuk, who despite being M-Division's chief
executive, retains the blunt language of a street cop.

Common money makers are false insurance claims to manufacturing
fraudulent credit cards, right up to drugs, he said in a recent
interview. Because drugs are one of the most profitable forms of
ill-gotten gains, it's one of the most common for organized crime
groups like the Hells Angels -- which the Yukon RCMP say supply the
territory's cocaine from Outside -- to be involved with.

In his experience, public interest and concern help cops get their job
done, said Shewchuk.

"It's when the community gets up in arms when we can get things done,"
he said.

He points to the years-long police campaign against outlaw motorcycle
gangs in Quebec, a fight that largely stemmed from public outrage
following the death of an 11-year-old Montreal boy who was killed
after a bomb exploded outside a biker hangout in 1995.

In Whitehorse, a downtown resident's complaints to the riding's MLA
resulted in two high-profile public meetings on drugs in the area,
particularly on the houses from which they're sold, as well as a
myriad of media attention and public discussion.

"Enforcement alone isn't going to solve anything," said Shewchuk,
noting that while reducing the supply is important, paring the demand
for drugs is also essential.

The RCMP have a hand in that too, he said, noting work done by
officers who teach a drug education program in Whitehorse and Watson
Lake elementary classes, along with the efforts of M-Division's drug
awareness officer.

A number of suspected cocaine dealers have been arrested on a variety
of offences in recent months, and the RCMP quietly evicted the
illicitly-employed residents of one of the downtown's more notorious
coke houses in late summer.

While the effects of entrenched organized crime groups vary between
different types of operations -- marijuana grow operations, crack
cocaine or crystal meth labs -- the basic result is more addiction and

The increased crime particularly comes in the form of petty crime
committed by users to support their habits.

Community members can do their part by supporting police and
government initiatives and not using drugs or supporting crime
elements, the commanding officer said.

While he stressed organized crime groups like the Hells Angels aren't
personally entrenched in the Yukon, they control the supply of drugs
arriving in the territory, said Sgt. Guy Rook, the M-Division
spokesman who sat through the interview with Shewchuk.

Drugs from down south are supplied to people selling them in
Whitehorse, the sergeant said.

"Organization and control is something we intend on disrupting," said

Currently, the Yukon RCMP are working on a plan to fight the drug
situation, but Shewchuk isn't putting his cards on the table.

"I'm not going to tell you what we're going to do, but it's not going
to take two years," said Shewchuk. "It's evolving quickly."

One change he could talk about was the result of an internal
evaluation of the shift system in the Whitehorse detachment. For
years, four watches of between five and seven officers have worked two
days and two nights before taking four days off. The result is the
same number of cops working at 6 a.m. Tuesday as at 10 p.m. Friday.

The new system, taking effect in the immediate future, will often see
two shifts working at once. One will be on the road and the other will
catch up on paperwork, updating their training, working on special
projects or doing bike, foot or snowmobile patrols, though they will
still be available to answer calls if needed.

The idea is to have more overlaps, particularly at shift-change

What it will look like is more uniformed officers on the streets of
Whitehorse, which Shewchuk hopes will tell residents the RCMP have
heard community concerns and is doing something about them.

He's also counting on the change to allow officers to catch up on
investigations and do a more thorough job of them, as well as get in
more time for professional development.

His personal priorities for his tenure in the Yukon -- he's retiring
after this posting -- are to improve service to the public and to
improve the quality of investigations, not that Yukon cops have been
anything to sneeze at up to now.

"I think things are working well here," he said.

In the RCMP, the northern divisions are volunteer positions, meaning
officers have to want to be there and aren't simply posted to the
North. And competition to get one of the few Yukon jobs can be fierce.

Shewchuk noted the impressive number of volunteer hours Yukon cops put
in, pointing to the officers who donned red serge for July 4 in
Alaska. Those officers paid for their own hotel rooms, he noted.

"Boy, I tell you, I don't think you'd see that in the south," said

When he heard about the Yukon commanding officer job, he started
calling around to people who'd worked here before, said Shewchuk. All
RCMP divisions have former police officers who'd go back and those who
wouldn't. Except the Yukon, he said.

"There wasn't one person I spoke to who wouldn't come back here," he
said. "Everybody said ,`You'll love it. After a year, you won't want
to leave.'"

When Shewchuk spoke to his counterpart in Nunavut, Chief Supt. John
Henderson, about the Yukon slot, Henderson just chuckled. "He
laughed," said Shewchuk. "He said, `That's not a northern division,
that's a northern park.'"

It was more than 33 years ago a 20-year-old Shewchuk looked around for
a good career and chose a Mountie's uniform.

After an initial posting to Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, he spent
six years in Red Deer, Alta., before heading to Boyle, Alta., to open
and head up the highway patrol unit.

A nine-year stint in the Edmonton RCMP's commercial crimes unit
followed. Since then, Shewchuk, who's also a certified general
accountant, has done other stings in organized crime, commercial crime
and criminal intelligence.

He comes by the legal interests honestly -- one brother is a Mountie
and the other is a civil lawyer.
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