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Veteran EPS members reflect on their careers

Sgt. Evan Handley and Admin. Sgt. Tyler McMillen have nearly 45 years of combined experience through their time with the Estevan Police Service.
Estevan Police Service Admin. Sgt. Tyler McMillen, left, and Sgt. Evan Handley have seen a lot in their careers.

ESTEVAN - Sgt. Evan Handley and Admin. Sgt. Tyler McMillen have nearly 45 years of combined experience through their time with the Estevan Police Service.

Needless to say, they have seen a lot of changes during that time.

As part of National Police Week in Canada, the two officers reflected on their careers and the changes they have experienced.

Handley has been a member of the Estevan Police Service since November 2003, while McMillen joined in the fall of 2001. Both were promoted to sergeant in September 2015.

For Handley, he always wanted to be a police officer.

"It might sound cliché, but I wanted to help people, and I wanted to make a difference in the community," Handley recalled. "And this was just something that was always in my mind. It's something I always wanted to do. I didn't want to be a firefighter, a doctor, that sort of thing, that wasn't on my plate."

Handley had been living in Estevan for some time when he joined the EPS. He already knew some of the long-time members, and he went on some ride-alongs before he was hired.

"Every day is different … every time I go to work, something different is going to happen. If I make one traffic stop on a Monday and one on a Tuesday, they're both different things. Every day when you come in, something new is going to happen. You're always dealing with different people. It keeps me on my toes and keeps me from getting bored."

McMillen, meanwhile, grew up in the Carievale area and always knew he wanted to be a police officer as well, thanks to his interactions with members of the Carnduff RCMP.

He has a hard time believing it's been nearly a quarter century since his first day on the job.

"You're so excited when you're a rookie and getting started. I felt I would have been the rookie for a long time. I felt like I'd be a rookie forever," said McMillen, who trails only Sgt. Kevin Reed when it comes to consecutive tenure for the EPS.

Const. Craig Bird was on the EPS when McMillen started, but Bird was retired from 2020-2022.

Since his promotion to sergeant, Handley has been in charge of a platoon and he is also in charge of the Combined Traffic Services of Saskatchewan (CTSS) unit, which has two members of the EPS and officers with the RCMP.

"We do projects with them," Handley said of CTSS. "They help us patrol all over the … southeast corner. So, we do STEP blitzes – Selective Traffic Enforcement Projects … with them, and our members who are there specifically look for traffic-related offences."

Handley is also part of the Joint Tactical Support Team (JTST), which has officers from Estevan and Weyburn.

When he was still a constable, Handley was working in the major crimes division (now the Criminal Investigations Division).

"I really like patrol. It gives me a chance to work with a small group of people every day. I get to help lead them and help develop their careers, like I was lucky enough, when I was young, to have good sergeants to help develop me and help guide my career on where to go."

McMillen is one of the officers that Handley cited as someone who helped early on. Reed was another. Gary Eagles, Elmer Vicary, Jerry Michalski, Jay Pierson and others also served as mentors for Handley.

When Handley first started policing, officers were still filling out information on bakers' cards. Now they have computers and other technology. They care tasers and pepper spray. Radios are more prevalent and are better, and he never thought he'd see the day when in-car computers are used. Tickets are typed instead of handwritten.

"All of the stuff that ... has changed technology-wise is amazing to see," said Handley. "On the other side, [I see] how much safer policing has gotten. When I started for the first couple of years, we didn't wear bulletproof vests. It's crazy to think that we didn't."

McMillen has seen a lot of those changes during his time, too.

"I did have just the expandable baton. That was kind of new," said McMillen.

Now they have cameras in police cars, as well as radar that can pick up multiple vehicles at the same time. They use different medical equipment if tending to someone on a trauma-related call. They work more with the Weyburn Police Service through the JTST.

Investigations have changed thanks to technological evolution.

"You have to send cell phones away and get search warrants for them, and there's so much data and information to try to extract from them for frauds and drug trafficking and harassments and threats. It's just changed the game where there's lots of information on the internet," said McMillen.

He has also seen the different drugs that have rolled in like fentanyl and methamphetamine, and the negative effects they create for individuals and families.

"Police now are being better trained in identifying the mental health side of things, the addictions, and trying to be part of the solution of trying to find the root cause to get these people the proper services."

McMillen has gone through another change recently. He recently became the administrative sergeant for the EPS, putting him No. 3 on the command structure behind Chief Rich Lowen and Deputy Chief Warren Morrical. He'll remain in the post for a four-month trial period.

"It's been a good experience for the first two weeks to see the gathering of stats and the statistical analysis for the different government agencies," said McMillen.

He has also had a look at the financial side of things and has been part of the scheduling process.

But McMillen said he misses being out in the community, which was part of his duties on the patrol unit.

"I love going through the schools, seeing the kids. That's where I feed off some energy, seeing those young ones, especially that K-4 [kindergarten to Grade 4] where they're just kids loving each other," he said.

Teachers have been great to work with whenever he stopped by a school.

Handley said Police Week is a good opportunity to recognize police officers everywhere. Oftentimes police gain attention for negative things that happen, so it's nice to get attention for the positives that officers are doing. Interacting with children and showing them the police car are favourite aspects of the job for Handley.

"We're at the schools quite regularly," said Handley. "We're helping with school patrols. We're helping do presentations at the schools. There's lots of things that we do that don't get publicized, so it's nice that they recognize the good things that police do in the community, because we do a lot."