For Sergeant Robert Hughes, Princeton RCMP’s new detachment commander, it’s like coming home.
The town’s new top cop spent his childhood summers and weekends at his grandmother’s house in Tulameen – where his father still lives – and the area holds special memories for him.
“It was dirt biking, camping and fishing,” he recalled in an interview with The Spotlight. “My wife and daughter and I still hunt in the area.”
He paused before adding: “in an extremely secret location.”
Hughes, who took up his duties last month, has been an RCMP member for 14 years, although he started his work career as a salesperson for a successful steel company.
In 2004 “I figured at that point in my life I was going to carry on in the steel industry or change career paths and do something I really wanted to do. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
With the exception of a couple eye-opening temporary assignments in Nunavut, Hughes has always policed in larger areas, including Richmond, Langley and Surrey.
He has worked as a general duty cop, a plainclothes officer specializing in break and enters and car theft, and spent time at the heart of urban gang war.
“That was very interesting policing,” he said.
He is already enjoying the rural aspects of his new position.
“The small town policing is different than anything that I am used to. The uniqueness here is that the whole community seems to be very pro-police, which is not something that I expected but I am more than happy to be in a situation like that.”
Hughes is pleased with the turn out at a recent Coffee with a Cop event, and with the community members he has met on the job.
A strategy to combat Princeton’s drug issues will be one of his priorities, he said.
“There’s an apparent drug problem in the community. I know there has been a few drug related deaths before I got here, so definitely that is a concern that needs to be addressed.”
He’s interested in continuing the unofficial program that sees officers working closely with schools.
“Youth are always a priority. The community policing approach is we always try to reach our youth and bring them along in the right direction the best we can.”
The Princeton detachment also has a corporal and five constables who are experienced officers.
“This group of constables is fantastic. We are blessed here with length of service,” he said, adding that many of Princeton’s officers already have 8 or 9 years on the job.
“Not only are the guys a little more mature they are also a little more mature in the policing world. The more experienced members we have the better, the more efficient we can be.”
Hughes came to Princeton with a partner in crime, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois named Tikki, who visits the station a couple of times a week.
He agreed Tikki seems to have a positive effect on office morale, but mostly tags along “because she’s my baby…Everybody in the office is dog friendly and some of the other people have brought their dogs to work and all the dogs get along.”