The new RCMP detachment commander in Slave Lake has been here before. John Spaans was a rookie officer on his first posting when he arrived in 2005. He remembers being advised by one of his older colleagues, when it came time for moving on, that “the grass isn’t always greener.”
Ten years later, returning to Slave Lake as a staff sergeant after service in several other communities, he has a better perspective on that advice he got back then.
“The grass is pretty green in Slave Lake,” Spaans says.
That could mean a lot of things, of course. One thing could be that the work is interesting and there’s plenty of it. Another could be that it’s a good place to raise a family. John and his wife Sarah (also an RCMP officer) have two young children.
“It’s the biggest place they’ve lived,” he says. “It’s a bit of an eye-opener.”
Moving and getting settled is somewhat stressful, Spaans says. It helps that the detachment was left in good shape by his predecessor Chris Murphy. Spaans told M.D. council last week that his transition into the position has been pretty smooth thanks to that – he doesn’t see much that needs changing. Murphy, in fact, was Spaans’ training officer back when both of them were in their first Slave Lake posting.
Since then, Spaans has worked in Elk Point, St. Paul/Saddle Lake and Boyle, with a few months most recently filling in as detachment commander in Lac La Biche.
Spaans was born in Richmond, B.C. into an RCMP family.
“My dad and my mom were both members,” he says.
Following their careers, the family moved to Nova Scotia and then to Alberta. Spaans finished his high schooling in St. Albert, then attended the University of Alberta where he obtained an arts degree. He says his decision to become a police officer was largely prompted by his experience of working in a group home, “with kids with addictions and FASD.” He graduated from the RCMP depot in November of 2005 and was sent to Slave Lake, which he says was “right up my alley.”
The personnel have changed entirely this time around, but he likes what he sees at the detachment. It’s a tight-knit team that works well together and is happy to be here. That is not the case in all detachments, he says.
“I think it strengthens the quality of policing.”
It helps also that “all of our ranks are full.”
Spaans officially started as the detachment commander on Oct. 30.
Staff Sgt. John Spaans