On Sunday, Police Officers from across the country will gather at different memorials to honour those that have fallen in the line of duty. Those that have tragically given their lives were mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends and colleagues. They had interests and hobbies, passions… lives outside of the uniform they wore on a daily basis.
In anticipation of the upcoming Saskatchewan Police & Peace Officer Memorial, we wanted to show you a few of those men and women, and who they are #BehindTheBadge. Throughout the week, we are featuring officers who have sworn to protect our community and hope you will learn a little bit more about them as human beings, not just Police Officers.
Mitch Yuzdepski was one of those kids in Kindergarten who knew he wanted to be a Police Officer when he grew up. He admits he may have second guessed his dream in high school, but refocused on the goal during his time at university. Mitch grew up in Saskatoon’s Avalon neighbourhood and attended the University of Saskatchewan. He convocated with a degree in Sociology and earned his certificate in Business Administration from the Edwards School of Business. If not a career in policing, he may have gone into law, but he’s always been passionate about criminal justice.
30 years ago, Mitch got his start with the Saskatoon Police Service working in Detention. Today, he is a Superintendent that oversees the Patrol Division. But a lot happened in those three decades. One of Mitch’s favourite areas was working in the Canine Unit. In his time there, he had two partners; Zeus and Tell. Mitch was always fascinated by how these dogs could go for miles on a slight scent and know exactly what and who they were looking for. He remembers his longest track with Zeus crossing all types of terrain for six miles. After three hours, he and Zeus had all of the suspects in custody. Working as a homicide detective was also a favourite. It was much different from the Canine Unit, but similar in terms of team work and the same end goal; to catch the bad guy.
His kids always thought, “Dad has a pretty cool job!” He would visit their Kindergarten classes as a canine officer and then in high school as a homicide detective. But it wasn’t until they were young adults that they realized their dad had been involved in a lot of scary situations. “Our families hear about what we do in the news. They don’t know the details, but they know we were at that call. I think when they realize that, the anxiety and worry goes up a bit.” Mitch recalls a recent conversation with his daughter where she told him how thankful she was, knowing that he went to work all those years, facing danger and difficult situations, but always returning home as just “Dad.”
But having that work/life balance doesn’t come easy to all officers. Mitch is passionate about mental health in the community and within the police service; he ensures all member of SPS have easy access to any resources they need when it comes to their mental wellness. He took a lead role in creating PACT (Police And Crisis Team), he wrote the Mental Health Strategy for SPS and he’s also the Administration Liaison for CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management).
Mitch is a big sports fan; he loves the Saskatchewan Roughriders and accepts the harassment he often receives for his adoration of the Montreal Canadiens. He’s been an active community soccer coach and volunteers at various sporting events. Volunteering is something you can find Mitch doing often around Saskatoon. He says it’s a lot like policing, “We both have the same goal; to better our community. They say it takes a village to raise a community and everyone should be a part of that village.”