He’s been called Canada’s coolest cop and has become somewhat of a celebrity in his southern Alberta community, but Const. Doug Sokoloski insists his story is just one example of the many positive gestures made by Mounties on the job every day.
The 49-year-old RCMP officer who lives in Pincher Creek, Alta., shot into the national spotlight after an Internet video showed him rocking the drums during an impromptu jam session with a group of campers he came across on a patrol.
The entire episode — which went viral after it was posted on YouTube this summer — took just four minutes but generated a lasting sense of goodwill towards the force.
"It's a good news story," Sokoloski tells The Canadian Press. "I'm not going to end up in a big band or gain any popularity or riches out of it but if it enhances the image of policing and of the RCMP, and it makes our job easier to do, you know, then go with it."
Sokoloski, who primarily deals with traffic incidents and acts as a spokesman for the Mounties in Pincher Creek, believes the small positive acts carried out by officers on a daily basis go unnoticed far too often.
"We get chastised for the few bad things we do, but every day there's thousands of good things done by police officers in our communities," he says.
Indeed, the popular drumming video provided a welcome boost to the perception of the Mounties in a year when the RCMP’s image has been battered by allegations of harassment and abusive behaviour within the force.
In his community, Sokoloski takes a hands-on approach to policing and focuses on building meaningful relationships with residents. Those bonds, he says, have undoubtedly been strengthened by all the buzz generated by the widely circulated video.
"From a work perspective it's made the job a lot easier and people want to approach you a lot more," he says with a chuckle. "I think it's made it easier for the other members in the area too."
The 17-year veteran of the force says he typically plays the guitar, and used to rock bars in Saskatchewan in the '80s with a band called “Shy Boy.” On occasion, he hammered away at the drums as well.
The incident which took place in July was just one part of a regular patrol for Sokoloski, who was driving along a rural forest access road when he spotted a set of drums through the trees. After chatting with the campers who were playing their instruments in the woods, Sokoloski asked if he could join in.
“I had never met the guy before, I didn't know what he was playing, so I just got a feel for it and I just played a beat,” he recalls. “I've never seen people jam in the forest before.”
The video of Sokoloski rocking out in the woods has since garnered more than 900,000 views on YouTube.
The popularity of the clip prompted him to display his musical prowess in public once more over the summer. This time, it was at a community parade during which he and two other Mounties rocked out on a float for 45 minutes.
“We just basically played some twelve bar blues, kinda rock with an edge in our red serge,” he explains. “We wanted to bring the RCMP closer to the community and we were kind of going off the theme of the original video and it was remarkable the response we got.”
Sokoloski hopes to participate in next year’s parade in some way as well and, going forward, is more than happy for his musical escapades to reveal a lighter side to the force.
“It was never intended to be anything more than just a basic standard day,” he says of the episode in the woods.
“But I think any time you get some positive spin you have to keep the momentum going.”