YORKTON – Being a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police can be a tough job, but for some, it's the opportunity to have an impact in a community that makes for a rewarding career.
Retired RCMP officer Pat Rawlick — who spent 40 years serving the province of Saskatchewan as a member of the national police force from 1968 until 2008, including time in Estevan — said his journey through the ranks was “extremely rewarding”.
Rawlick, who is originally from Winnipeg, said he was still a child when he decided he wanted to join the force.
"I was probably 10 years old, and there's a resort north of Winnipeg called Winnipeg Beach – we would drive into Winnipeg Beach and go for lunch and I remember one day walking with my dad and mom on the main street in Winnipeg Beach and there were two RCMP coming towards us — honestly they looked like they were 10 feet tall — they wore boots and breeches and they had their Stetsons on and their Sam Browns on, which is the holsters," said Rawlick in an interview with Yorkton This Week.
"When people saw them, they went to the edges of the sidewalk or closer to the building to let these two RCMP go through," said Rawlick, adding, "since that day — I don't know what it was — but I always wanted to be a member of the RCMP."
"It was branded in my mind and in my heart that that's the occupation that I wanted."
Rawlick's childhood dream would materialize on Jan. 2, 1968, when he would take the train from Winnipeg to Regina to attend training for the RCMP.
"I had been sworn in before Jan. 1 in Winnipeg on Main Street and on Jan. 2 my mother and my dad and my sister and friends took me to the train."
Rawlick said he started training at the RCMP Depot in Regina, but finished his in Alberta.
"In my time there was a lot of members applying for the force and depot was really full, so to accommodate more policemen they would transfer every second troop to Penhold, Alta. – we stayed at an old military base and we finished our second part of training there."
After completing training, Rawlick returned to Regina to begin working for the RCMP. In the months and years to follow, the new recruit would find himself stationed in several different Saskatchewan communities.
"After I had graduated from Penhold, Alta., I was transferred back to Regina Town Station – I got into barracks on the fifth floor and that's where we lived and worked out of," said Rawlick, noting he was only in Regina for a few months before being transferred to Estevan and then to Kindersley several months later.
"In those days it was really easy to transfer members because we were all single – you weren't allowed to get married for five years — and it was cheap — [the RCMP] had no families to move.”
After working in Kindersley, Rawlick was transferred to Saskatoon Highway Patrol where he spent a year on the job before being transferred to Rosetown to work for the Highway Patrol.
In 1973 Rawlick was transferred from Rosetown to Moosomin where he spent another year on the force.
"I was probably in Moosomin a year plus – from Moosomin I got transferred to Morse."
Rawlick was only in Morse for three months when he got transferred to Big River, the town where he would meet and marry his wife Laverne.
After getting married and another transfer — this time to Lumsden — Rawlick was able to settle in to a community for a time.
"I think I was in Lumsden for six years and that's where my three kids were raised," said Rawlick.
It wasn't the last time Rawlick would transfer as he was eventually promoted and sent to Punnichy where he worked for three years. Another transfer put Rawlick in Kyle, where he worked as the detachment commander for five years. "From Kyle I got promoted to sergeant at Carrot River and I was there for a number of years and then from Carrot River I got promoted again to staff sergeant," said Rawlick.
In 1995, after a marriage, three kids and 13 transfers, Rawlick would find himself in the city he now resides in; Yorkton.
"My position here was an area supervisor – I supervised all the detachments around here," said Rawlick of his duties with the Yorkton RCMP.
Rawlick retired from the RCMP in 2008 and said the career was “extremely rewarding,” noting he received several awards and accolades during his time spent with the force.
"I've got my long service medal which is gold, representing 35 years, I've got a Queen's Jubilee Medal, I've got a Protective Services Medal and I've got a Saskatchewan Medal."
"I'm very proud of those. I think in my time I can honestly say that I felt an obligation to the people of Saskatchewan to ensure — to the best of my abilities — safe roads, safe homes and safe communities. As long as you were fully committed, that was the goal."
Though some would find the myriad of transfers difficult to endure, Rawlick said it was just part of the job.
"In those days you did what your boss told you – you took orders, you obeyed orders and you made the best of things," said Rawlick, adding, "I never knew where Morse was or where Big River was — I'd never been through those places — but when he told me I was going I found out where they were and I went — and you know what — I totally enjoyed all those places."
It was important for Rawlick to immerse himself in the communities he lived and worked in to maintain long-lasting friendships.
"The RCMP — in my time – and I certainly believe still now — wants community involvement," said Rawlick.
"Others lived different lifestyles than me – I remember being stationed in Rosetown and there was a sergeant there and he was probably the first gentleman to tell me 'get involved in the communities — don't think that you're special and just hang around with the RCMP members — get to know people in the community.'"
"That was extremely important — I was young in my service but he was right — if you're not involved in your community, it's a long damn ride to sit in some little detachment with no friends."
Having lived in so many communities over the years, Rawlick said he made many long-lasting friendships by having a presence in the community at anywhere from the local coffee shops to sporting events.
"Every place that I've lived as a married man I have civilian friends there right now — I could go to Carrot River and I could stay with a number of people — Kyle is the same way.”
"When you took your family into a community — if you wanted to really enjoy that community you had to take ownership — Lumsden was my community and we did everything in that community."
"You make friends because you want to be a part of their community and that's what Laverne and I did."
Rawlick credits his wife Laverne for the support she showed him throughout his time with the RCMP.
"I can tell you one person — that really has kept me focused and supported me in every way — is my wife. There were times you'd come home and you'd had a bad day and you talked to your wife and she would console you. There were times when you were getting transferred and say, 'God, I'm not sure I want to take the family and move at this time of the year' – 'it's okay, we'll work it out,' she would say.
"We met a lot of good people. I had a young fella working for me that's now an extremely high-ranking officer in Ottawa. You like to see those careers develop and think that maybe you had just a little bit of influence to get him or her to that position."
Though Rawlick believes it's harder to be an RCMP Officer with the current state of the world, he still appreciates the time he spent with the force.
"I was privileged to have a job like this – I was proud to be a member of the RCMP. In my day we were the police force of choice, we were probably world renowned."
"I think it's changed; I think it's harder now to be an RCMP ... I think society has changed dramatically – that respect for police isn't as great as it used to be."
"The thing that's very strange is you don't see many single RCMP nowadays – most of them are married,” said Rawlick, noting you had to be single for five years when new to the job hence recruits were “really committed to the force."
"And in my time we never had ladies in the force...everybody thought that it was going to be the fall of the force [when they came] — but I'll tell you that was not the case — the ladies are the RCMP and they're a valuable part of the RCMP and a lot of male members could be well-guided by how they conduct themselves."
Rawlick said that after retiring from the RCMP he spent time working for the Good Spirit School Division as a bus driver and enjoyed driving kids to extra-curricular activities.
"There came a time when I said, 'I don't want to get up at 6 a.m. anymore and get into my cold bus and have to ride on icy roads and once my driver's license expired, I let it go."
Rawlick said he keeps busy with his seven grandchildren, reading books, watching television and visiting with neighbours. “Enjoying life and being appreciative of what I've got."