Not an outdoorsy-type of guy, new RCMP officer Mike Thompson came to Houston because of the friendly community and the opportunity to learn and develop policing skills.
Stationed and living in Granisle, but commuting to Houston for work, Thompson says he heard a lot of good things about Houston from his partner at his first post in London, Ontario, who had grown up in Smithers.
After doing a bit of research, Thompson and his wife decided to apply only for Houston, he said, adding that the beauty of the town, the welcoming community and the Leisure Facility and arena were all big things for him and his family.
But more than that, Thompson says he came here for the policing experience.
“I always wanted to be a mountie,” said Thompson. “My Dad is a retired Niagara regional police officer . . . I grew up with my Dad being a copper, and I always wanted to do it.”
At his previous post in London, Ontario, Thompson spent 3.5 years in plain clothes doing Federal policing, mostly drug investigation work, but he had always wanted to wear uniform and do general duty in a contract division like B.C., he said.
After high school Thompson studied Sociology for two years at Brock University before deciding to leave the books behind and pursue a policing career, he said.
The honour and respect of the RCMP – brought out through the Mayorthorpe tragedy which happened around that same time – helped him take that step as well, said Thompson, adding that tragedies often have that effect, spurring people to do their duty and help keep the peace by joining the RCMP or the military.
Now, after joining the RCMP in 2007, Thompson is eager to learn and develop policing skills that he wasn’t able to learn at his previous post.
Coming straight from the depot into a Federal division, Thompson says he and others like him didn’t learn a lot of the things they would working in uniform, such as interpersonal skills and public communication – the regular investigative skills.
“I’m a big guy for opportunity,” said Thompson.
Houston is a huge opportunity to learn – through experiences and through experienced officers in town.
Having grown up in St. Catherines, Ontario, a city of about 130,000 people, Houston brings a lot of changes for Thompson, but he loves it here, he says.
“It’s a great community. The people that I’ve met have been extremely welcoming,” he said.
Even as a visiting stranger when he came to get set up five weeks ago, he got waves of greeting from nearly everyone – something that nobody did in the neighbourhood where he grew up in and lived his entire life, he said.
“Here I was warned that everybody waves – and I like it,” he said, adding that it gives a friendly neighbourhood feel to the town.
It shows that people are aware of their community and who is in their community, and gives a sense of safety and security, he said, adding that it makes him feel good about moving his family here.
But there is more new to Thompson than just the size and friendliness of Houston: having always lived in the city, the wildlife is taking some getting used to.
Seeing wolves and moose on the side of the road was one thing, but Thompson was recently startled by two bears coming out of the trees about 60 yards away, which sent him jumping back into his car.
“I’m still learning the outdoors . . . slowly getting more comfortable with it,” he said. “I’m not worried about it, it’s just new, that’s all.”
So though he hasn’t gotten out too much yet, Thompson says he hopes to as he gets more comfortable with it.
For hobbies, Thompson says he plays hockey and is a big sports guy.
“I’m not by any means an avid hunter or fisherman,” he said, joking that it seems like those hobbies are almost considered prerequisites for living in Granisle.
But he does enjoy getting outside and going on hikes, and his wife and daughter enjoy going out for walks, he said, adding that he will be making sure they have bear bells with them when they go.
“I’m sure that I’m that paranoid Dad that wants to make sure that everybody is set to be safe out there, but you never know,” he said.