Behind the Badge: Superintendent Mitch Yuzdepski

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.”

Posted in Behind the Badge, In Our Community | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind the Badge: Inspector Lisa Lafreniere

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.

—–

Inspector Lisa Lafreniere has been with the Saskatoon Police Service for 29 years. She is the Inspector in charge of the Northwest Division, but she got her start on the east side of the city. The Saskatoon native grew up in the South Nutana and Eastview neighbourhoods. After graduating from Holy Cross High School, she thought she’d like to be a travel agent. But that was a very short lived dream, before she realized policing was her calling. This was made clear to her by her father, a 36 year member of the SPS. She describes him as the “epitome of neighbourhood policing.” Everybody knew him and they all asked him for advice or help, which he was more than willing to provide. She knew policing would be a good fit because she grew up around officers; she had an uncle in the RCMP, a cousin in the Ottawa Police Service, a brother in corrections. Her mother wasn’t an officer but a nurse who also worked shift work. Lisa had a pretty good idea of what life would look like if she followed the family tradition. “I knew that there would be some holidays where my folks might not be at home because of the job. But you adapt, you deal with the situation

and it just becomes a way of life.” A life she was excited about. “It’s an honorable profession, and I count myself lucky to be able to put on my uniform every day and serve the citizens of Saskatoon.  My dad gave me the gift of wanting to make a difference like he did.”

Lisa didn’t start out as an officer. At the young age of 22, she joined the service in Administration, then Central Records as a CPIC operator and File Clerk. For seven years she was a Special Constable and the calm voice on the phone in Communications as she answered emergency calls. After that, she became a regular Constable and worked her way up to the title of ‘Inspector’ she holds today. “I’ve had an opportunity to do different jobs within the police service and in every one I learned a new skill-set and have enjoyed every single unit. I’ve enjoyed my entire career. I truly believe it’s a calling.”

One of Lisa’s favourite and most rewarding aspects of her career was working with at-risk youth. She has a lot of “passion and affinity for them.” The most challenging part of the job; “I think is in Patrol when you’re the first responder, you respond to calls for service that involve a lot of tragedy and dealing with that first hand, for me, was the most challenging. Some of my most poignant memories are from my role in Patrol and going to some of those calls.” But resiliency is key, both physically and mentally. Lisa likes to set aside time to take care of herself whether it be going to the gym or catching up with close friends outside of policing. Those external relationships are important in keeping her grounded.

Although being a travel agent wasn’t in her cards, Lisa still has a passion for discovering new destinations. She’s traveled to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Mexico, Belize, Cuba and all across North America.

A couple of her secrets; she’s an introvert and loves to write. A memoir book is not out of the question for Inspector Lisa Lafreniere’s future.

Posted in Behind the Badge, In Our Community | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind the Badge: Inspector Randy Huisman

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.

—–

Inspector Randy Huisman wanted to be police officer ever since he was a boy. “From a very young age, I was always interested in police work simply from watching T.V. shows and being outside playing and seeing police vehicles with sirens on heading out to a call.”

Randy was born and raised in Lethbridge, Alberta. After high school, he attended Lethbridge Community College’s Law Enforcement Program, achieving a diploma in Natural and Social Sciences. His first job took him to the Peace River area in Alberta where he worked in corrections. Randy’s interest in Saskatoon was sparked after hearing an SPS member talk about how busy the small city was. He also recalls hearing how it was one of the sunniest cities in Canada. He became a constable in patrol in 1987. Now, 30 years later, Randy is the Inspector in charge of Saskatoon’s Central Division. But a lot happened in that time.
He got his feet wet in patrol covering Saskatoon’s west and central areas. After 12.5 years on patrol, Randy took a plain-clothes officer position in the VICE unit. He worked there for nearly four years. He was later charged to assist with a very large task; creating a new unit that would focus on gangs in Saskatoon. After that, he joined the Major Crime unit as a homicide investigator. This was his favourite position in the service. “You’re taking probably the ultimate investigation that a police officer could work on and sometimes you’re starting from scratch with nothing, and you’re building a case through – and I like talking with people, so through interviewing witnesses, canvassing neighbourhoods, doing suspect interviews…gathering up all that evidence to a successful conclusion.” Although this position holds some of Randy’s fondest memories, it also presented him with, what he calls the worst part of the job; notifying families when their loved one had died. After nine years in Major Crime, Randy was promoted in the ranks to ‘Staff Sergeant,’ then Staff Sergeant of Major Crime, followed by his most recent promotion to Inspector in charge of Central Division. Working with the community, listening to its needs and concerns, and reciprocating that back to the service is very rewarding to Randy.

Although he admits he can be a work-a-holic, he also enjoys his time away from the police station with family and friends as well as fishing. His favourite way to enjoy the outdoors and take in the scenery is behind the handle bars of a motorcycle; his 2009 Harley Davidson Heritage Soft Tail, to be exact. “If I can get out each year for a one-week boys trip, that’s one of the things I really look forward to. We like to go put on as many miles as we can, go tour Canada and the United States. I’m a very social person so we get to stop and talk to numerous people along the way, and there are great stories to be told.”

So why wasn’t he a motorcycle officer in the Traffic unit? He never liked writing tickets, but was a little disappointed he didn’t join the unit when he found out officers could ride motorcycles during the summer months. But he never regretted the decisions he made that have led him to where he is today. “Wherever you’re working in police work, you have a great opportunity to help people.”

 

 

Posted in Behind the Badge, In Our Community | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment