By Kuhl, Nick on January 6, 2020.
Ron Valin’s career with the Lethbridge Police Service was almost over before it began – thanks to one wayward letter.
After graduating from Lethbridge College’s Law Enforcement program in 1975, he took a temporary job at a gas plant near Pincher Creek while he waited to hear back from the many job applications he had sent out. The Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) sent him a letter informing him that he was hired and telling him when he should show up for his first day of work – but he never received it.
When he didn’t show up as instructed, an LPS sergeant called his house to question why he wasn’t at work. Valin’s mom took the call, which kick-started a campaign to get word to him as quickly as possible. By that afternoon, he was working as a constable for the Lethbridge Police Service.
It was an eventful start to what became a decorated 25-year career with the LPS.
Valin’s passion for criminal justice began when he worked as a cell guard at the Pincher Creek RCMP Detachment during high school. The RCMP officers mentored Valin and inspired him to pursue a career in criminal justice. They also influenced him to apply to Lethbridge College’s Law Enforcement program in 1973.
Instructors such as Ken Riley and Bob Harrison made a lasting impression on Valin – he respected that both had entered the education field following successful careers in law enforcement and had high expectations for their students.
As a young police officer, Valin’s experiences felt shocking and sometimes even humorous – such as the time he had to arrest someone who was throwing prosthetic limbs at him. Other experiences were far more harrowing.
Once, while working with LPS/RCMP joint forces drug section, he stopped by the 5th Avenue and 5th Street station to pick up his paycheque, opened the back door and walked right into a scuffle in a stairwell between an LPS colleague and an escaped prisoner.
The prisoner had gained control of the member’s service revolver and was pointing it at the head of the officer. Valin used instinct, adrenaline and quick reflexes to grab and hold the barrel of the gun while the suspect fired several shots. Valin says the bullet holes remain in the concrete of the stairwell to this day.
“Everything happened so fast,” he remembers. “There is no doubt an officer would have been seriously injured or lost his life that day if I had not been in the right place at the right time.”
He says it’s a prime example of the intense interactions that police officers train for.
Another career highlight was working a case that led to the first successful rape conviction using DNA evidence in western Canada.
Valin served with LPS until his retirement in 2000. After 25 years of dedicated service, he retired with the rank of sergeant and head of the Criminal Intelligence Division.
“Law enforcement and the overall work of stopping the progress of the criminal element, was a considerable responsibility,” Valin said. “However, the reward was knowing that I played a role, for a very long time, in ensuring the safety of our community and its residents.”