Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A heartfelt thanks to new police chief

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So how much would you pay to be police chief for a day -- including lunch at the Fairmont with the guy who gets paid to really do the job?

Actually, I have the answer to what one man paid at a charity gala Friday night to win the opportunity to shadow police Chief Devon Clunis.

But first, we should introduce other winners at the same event.

Every day, while most of us only read about the violence on the streets of Winnipeg, our police officers come face to face with kids at risk, the ones most affected by crime and the lure of drugs and gangs.

Three officers who have seen it all, and have done even more, were honoured Friday evening for their off-duty volunteer efforts for children at the first annual Kiwanis Club Top Cop volunteer gala, which is where the police-chief-for-a-day prize was auctioned off.

It was an inspiring, fast-paced and first-class evening at the Fairmont that included Mayor Sam Katz, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland and, of course, the new sheriff in town, Devon Clunis.

Ace Burpee, the ever-entertaining MC, introduced the three Top Cop nominees between servings of the creamy corn and sweet potato chowder soup, the main course of pan-fried beef tenderloin and the chocolate truffle mousse dessert, which made the evening flow almost as well as the wine at the table.

As for the finalists, they were all winners in my notebook.

  • Const. Shaun Chornley, a 14-year veteran, has helped raise more than $325,000 for various charities for which he's volunteered. He's also the creator of Dream Child Officer for a Day, where a kid who has a life-threatening disease gets the chance to be sworn in, issued a uniform and badge and ride in a patrol car at the Santa Claus parade.
  • Sgt. Geordie MacKenzie works in the central reporting unit, but his passion is sports. He's coached kids on various teams at Norberry Glenlee Community Club, Christ the King School and at the Bonivital Soccer Club. He's also a founding member of the Cops for Kids Bike Ride, who, as a member of the Police Heat hockey team, has been involved in fundraising more than $1 million for children's charities.
  • Const. Kevin Gibson has used his musical talents to voluntarily perform for various charities during his nearly 25 years as a cop, but it was the wounding of three fellow cops who were shot while raiding a home on Jubilee Avenue several years ago that prompted him to create a charity of his own in their honour. Gibson operates Status4 Inc, a non-profit organization that offers free music and arts programs to kids aged seven to 17.

It was Gibson who was chosen Top Cop at the gala but everyone won Friday night, especially the kids and the other cops who quietly give their time to help children, both on and off the job.

Of course the Top Cop community volunteer award was a perfect venue for the new police chief to repeat his call for community involvement -- which he did.

And later, out on the dance floor -- before the band Rockalypso started to play -- I gave the chief a hug and said I would be happy to help him with his own Winnipeg version of Yes We Can.

Which brings us to the question of who paid how much to be police chief for a day?

The answer is Vic Switzer, owner of Allmove Record Storage.

He paid more than $1,000 for the privilege and after speaking with him I got the feeling he would have paid more.

That's because he bought it both as a way of thanking Clunis and a surprise gift for someone the chief knows.

I'm sworn to secrecy about who that someone is, but I can give you some background.

Ten years ago, Patrol Sgt. Peggy Delaney, 45, died after a long struggle with breast cancer.

Peggy was Vic's wife's first cousin and a friend of the future chief.

Clunis officiated at the funeral.

And then two years ago, Clunis was there for Audrey Delaney when he officiated again at the funeral of her 84-year-old husband, and Peggy's father, Doug Delaney.

Paying more than $1,000 to a charity was Vic's way of saying thanks to the chief and offering the gift of his presence at lunch to someone who will forever be grateful for what he did for the Delaney family.

Leading by example.

That's one way to do it when you're the Top Cop 365 days a year.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2012 B1


Updated on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM CST: New image added

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