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NICHOLAS MERCER: Making home his last stop

Curling native Ches Parsons is the new head of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador. Standing in front of the wall in the same fashion he did when he was 12 years old.
Curling native Ches Parsons is the new head of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador. Standing in front of the wall in the same fashion he did when he was 12 years old. - Nicholas Mercer

The first time Assistant Commissioner Ches Parsons set foot in a police building was at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Corner Brook. 

He was 12 at the time when his father took him and his brother there.

He remembers standing in front of a brick wall in the main entrance for a picture with his brother and the sons of the detachment’s staff sergeant of the times. Staff Sgt. Bill Wiebe was also in the photo.

Parsons — the new head of the force in Newfoundland and Labrador — never forgot it. Wiebe didn’t have to take the time for the photo, but he did anyway.

He still has the picture, in fact. It is in a photo album in storage in Ontario.

Being in the same building stirred something in him. He didn’t know it then — how could he? He was just 12, but that moment would lead him into what would be his career in law enforcement.

Growing up in Curling, he said he never caused trouble as he grew older, but he also never fit the mould of a guy whose future was bound to law enforcement.

A good student at Herdman Collegiate in Corner Brook, he was just another face in the crowd.

He was an accountant and just finished an accounting and finance degree at Memorial University when he left for the RCMP.

Parsons saw officers as pillars in their communities, but never imagined being one.

“It always resonated with me that the RCMP as a group of people were … upstanding citizens,” he said Friday afternoon in a small corner boardroom of the Corner Brook detachment. “It did set an example of what the force can be and is in the community.”

It was never supposed to be a permanent thing. At 25, he figured he’d do it for a couple of years and then head back to life as an accountant.

Parsons’s first stop was Fort McMurray, the northern Alberta city known for its strong number of Newfoundland and Labrador ex-pats.

Just three years into his career he was looking at options to head back into the private life. However, a move to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. made him rethink leaving and enforced his desire to stay with the force.

It was on the frigid edge of the Beaufort Sea, Parsons truly saw the good officers could do in the community in their service to the public.

Then, 9/11 happened. There was no turning back for him then. After that, he spent the next 18 years as a member of the National Security effort.

Parsons has been a member of the RCMP for about 32 years. He doesn’t keep track of the finite number, he said. Still, he is sure it has been three decades of service.

He calls Newfoundland and Labrador his last stop.

Parsons was never posted in the province as an officer and the move home was never something he thought would ever happen.

A Newfoundland officer hasn’t been the head of the local RCMP for at least two decades.

“It means everything (to me) to be posted here,” said Parsons. “Being from Newfoundland and Labrador, it offers me certain advantages. The communities, the geography and the people are not foreign to me.

“That gives me additional insights and additional motivation to serve to the best of my capacities.”

He plans to address mental health in the RCMP and harassment during his tenure. He also is aiming at modernizing the way the force goes about its business in the province.

Parsons also has eyes on improving highway enforcement and improving the safety of our highways. Being from Bay Roberts, that news is welcomed for me. The Veterans Memorial Highway that connects to Bay Roberts to the rest of the island has morphed into one of the more deadlier roads in the province after a number of deadly collisions in the last year.

Parsons has his work cut out for him.

For now, just five weeks into his new post as the head of the provincial branch, he is again standing in front of the same wall he was 44 years ago.

And, like that time, he’s getting his picture taken.

Heading back into the small boardroom, Parsons made a quick stop to remove something from the wall. It was a picture of his predecessor.

There is someone new at the helm now.

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