"This is a very important assignment that impacts how we deliver our policing resources to the fullest potential for the benefit of our citizens. Specifically, I oversee our human resources section, training, recruiting, professional standards, finance, technology, information management and many more sections that allow our officers to do a great job for you."
Steve Rai, Deputy Chief Constable, Vancouver Police Department
You were recently appointed Deputy Chief of Vancouver Police Department (VPD) - the first South Asian officer to hold the post. How do you feel receiving this honour?
I feel extremely proud for being able to achieve this leadership position with the VPD, a world-class policing organization. I grew up in Vancouver, have lived in the Lower Mainland for most of my life, and I am extremely excited to work for the entire community in helping to improve public safety and quality of life. Also, I am eager to utilize my new role to showcase to South Asian youth that you can achieve what you want if you strive for it, have a personal plan for yourself, and be honest about pursuing it. Don’t make excuses, achieve to your potential!
What are the responsibilities attached to this role?
My responsibilities encompass the business side of policing. This is a very important assignment that impacts how we deliver our policing resources to the fullest potential for the benefit of our citizens. Specifically, I oversee our human resources section, training, recruiting, professional standards, finance, technology, information management and many more sections that allow our officers to do a great job for you.
What inspired you to get into the police force?
I knew I wanted to be a police officer since I was 16 years old. I have played team sports for my entire life; I was looking for a career that had the team component and the camaraderie and spirit of a team environment. Of course I wanted a career that was exciting and that had a purpose. Policing provides all of this and more. I have had many mini-careers in my 25 years. I was a hostage negotiator, district commander, a public order commander, the list goes on. My point being, there is so much variety in policing that I have always had career satisfaction. I have never regretted my choice as a 16 year old.
How has your journey been so far as part of the VPD?
Policing has changed a lot since I started; our officer demographics much better reflect the community than when I began my career. We have officers from every ethnic background living in Vancouver, officers who speak multiple languages, and who come with a variety of experiences. Technology is really changing the way we fight crime and will continue to exert great positive influence on business practices.
Personally, my journey has been very rewarding. I continue to learn and develop new skills in order to keep up with new and emerging trends. Policing can be very academic, while in other situations, it is all about personal interactions, therefore, my journey has been exactly what I wanted in terms of perpetual personal and professional growth.
Taking up this role, what plans do you have for the city?
A pillar of Chief Adam Palmer’s platform for policing Vancouver is to heighten our grassroots community engagement. We’ve always done a very good job working with community stakeholders, but in the coming years the public will see the VPD in a much more pronounced way.
Specific to my role as Deputy Chief, one of my responsibilities is to ensure our officers reflect the community and have the best training available. The diverse representation in policing continues to strengthen a collective mindset, and not an “us versus them” outlook. In my role as Deputy Chief, I will continue to ensure your police department represents you and is highly trained to the sensitivities of our eclectic city.
How do you see the growth and development of Vancouver?
We continue to strengthen our world class status. Whenever I travel and speak with people, Vancouver and the word ‘beautiful’ are synonymous. I believe we’ve done a great job in maintaining our natural beauty while allowing our communities to thrive with people from all over the world. Of course our role as a police agency is to play a part in educating citizens while ensuring we do our part in helping to build a great city. Law enforcement is very active province-wide in thwarting crime trends and in not allowing criminality to seep into the fabric of the Province.
What are your views on the achievements of Indians or Indo-Canadians Asians in B.C.?
Well, anybody who knows me knows just how proud I am of my ethnic heritage. I travel to India on a regular basis, I follow South Asian issues and I support solutions wherever I can. I want to honour the road paved by the first South Asian immigrants with respect and dignity. I feel our community has achieved many things that honour the blood and sweat of the early pioneers. We have influence in every industry and sector across Canada. Leaders are sensitive and responsive to the issues important to our community; this is an indicator of just how important a role we play in the larger Canadian fabric. I want to see the next generation excel even further and not become complacent based on the achievements of past generations.
Lately, crime and gang wars have been linked to the South Asian community. What are your views about this issue?
I have a very strong viewpoint that crime is being committed by persons from every demographic. Personally and professionally, I never accepted placing a disproportionate blame on any one ethnicity. In fact, those from the South Asian community who commit gang-related crime are second or third generation Canadians, born and raised in our communities. I acknowledge that we do need to continue to break down cultural barriers that contribute to investigative roadblocks. We need our community to become more open and cooperative in those situations where the police need support to solve a crime.
You are the recipient of a Chief Constable’s Commendation for “courage and professionalism,” two Chief Constable Unit Citations, and the Khalsa Diwan Society (KDS) Exemplary Community Service Award. Do state what these awards mean to you?
The internal recognition is always rewarding in that your fellow officers have appreciated your work. I have been fortunate over the course of my career to have worked with some great partners and to have worked in some fantastic specialized police units, these awards speak to positive outcomes in difficult circumstances. I am always grateful to my fellow police officers.
The KDS award is extremely important to me professionally because it was the community recognizing the VPD. The KDS is a fixture and leader in our community of historic proportion, the fact they took the time and energy to appreciate our partnership is very gratifying for me.
What message would you like to give youngsters who wish to follow your path?
I have personally coached many kids throughout my career. My central advice to them has always been to remind them to stay ‘focused’, have a vision for yourself, view yourself successfully, and develop a mindset and mental plan of where you want to be in five years, in 10 years and so on. Don’t be distracted by unimportant things that take away your energy, everyone has a mark to leave in life, make it a good mark!