Downtown Eastside wants popular cop to stay

POLICE I Const. Dave Dickson is one of 18 officers who took early retirement in 2003 and were then re-hired on short-term contracts

Doug Ward
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, March 05, 2005

VANCOUVER I The Vancouver Police Department hopes it can keep Const. Dave Dickson on the inner city beat he's walked for 25 years -- but not in a police uniform.

CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

To the dismay of many Downtown Eastside groups, Const. Dave Dickson's contract ends in April.

Dickson is one of 18 senior police officers who took early retirement in 2003 because of pension changes and then were re-hired last year on short-term contracts.

His contract expires at the end of April, much to the dismay of many groups in the Downtown Eastside community that have been campaigning for his re-hiring.

"This is a community that doesn't normally trust the police, but Dave has built up that trust," said Kate Hodgson, coordinator of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Safety Office.

Dickson is a familiar figure in the Downtown Eastside. Neighbourhood safety activist Hodgson said there are 650 signatures on a petition in support of the veteran officer. "Dave's greatest strength down here is his connection to people on the street -- sex trade workers, high-risk youth, kids in the neighbourhood. His pager is on 24 hours a day."

VPD spokesman Const. Anne Drennan said the VPD will live up to its agreement with the Vancouver Police Union not to rehire the officers who chose early retirement and were rehired on a one-time, short-term basis.

"But we are we exploring other possibilities to see if Dave can continue to work downtown. But not as a police officer."

Drennan said that the VPD would like Dickson to serve somehow as a liaison between the Downtown Eastside community and the police force, but she declined to elaborate.

"We would like Dave to stay because he's just an extraordinary police officer and has done incredible work down there."

Dickson said the VPD knows he would prefer to remain on his Downtown Eastside police beat.

"I've made it clear to the department that I'm willing to stick around for a couple of years.

"But it's an issue between the union and the department."

Dickson said he was flattered by the community's support. "It's embarrassing because I don't like blowing my own horn."

Police union president Tom Stamatakis defended the agreement reached with the VPD, baring the re-hiring of Dickson and other police officers who took early retirement. Stamatakis said Dickson and other policemen voluntarily chose early retirement and that short-term contracts are no solution to developing a long-term staffing policy.

Stamatakis added: "We have many qualified people in this organization and I think it's not fair to them to suggest there is only one person who could do that job or provide that level of service to a particular community."

Kate Gibson, executive-director of the WISH Drop-In Centre for sex trade workers, said Dickson is trusted by prostitutes working downtown.

"He maintains a very open relationship with the women. He listens to them, he's available to them, he will help them," said Gibson. "He's the only man who is allowed into the WISH centre. He comes here and speaks to the women all the time."

Carole Brown, a coordinator at the Ray Cam Cooperative Centre, said kids in her centre's daycare have made a giant card calling for Dickson to remain in the community.

 The Vancouver Sun 2005

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