By Yoos, Cam on January 20, 2020.
It’s not the type of call a Lethbridge police officer is used to taking – but it goes to show the unpredictability of policing.
A Guatemalan man suspected of war crimes was believed to be in southern Alberta, and international police services needed local help to find him and bring him in. Jason Walper, a 1995 graduate of Lethbridge College’s Criminal Justice program and a member of Lethbridge Police Services’ Integrated Intelligence Unit, rose to the challenge.
Working alongside the RCMP, Walper and his unit spent three months on the investigation and used covert surveillance to locate the man. The suspect was deported and Walper had a career case that had allowed him to both use his training and expand his skillset.
“In policing, you can have several jobs within the job,” says Walper.
“Everyone starts their career as a uniform officer, but there are many opportunities to work in specialized areas that require you to learn new skills and provide new challenges that keep you engaged and satisfied throughout your career.”
Becoming an officer was a lifelong dream for Walper, who grew up in Dawson Creek, B.C. He was just 19 when he entered the college’s Criminal Justice program in 1993.
“Lethbridge College provided me with a good foundation of what policing was and what to expect in the field of criminal justice,” remembers Walper.
“It aided me to grow personally into an independent adult and develop life-long friendships with my classmates, many of whom have entered law enforcement themselves.”
While at the college, Walper paid close attention to the former Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) officers who taught in the program and the current officers who came in as guest speakers. Their enthusiasm led him to apply to LPS.
The policing world he entered then is much different than the one he occupies now. At that time, reports were mostly handwritten and tasks as simple as making a phone call or checking a database required returning to the station. Now, patrol vehicles are equipped with high-tech computers and everyone has a cellphone.
While the technology has changed, the heart of the job has not.
“We’re often called upon to assist people who are in crisis and need someone to talk with, to provide insight into a problem or to simply answer questions,” says Walper.
And sometimes, there are situations that no amount of training can prepare them for. As a young constable, Walper was sent to remove a bat from the residence of two university students. Needless to say, he had never received “bat removal training” as a police recruit.
“We used a couple of cardboard boxes to trap it, took it outside and released it into the night sky,” he remembers.
From trapping bats to tracking war criminals and everything in between, Walper, who is now an Inspector with LPS, has approached every task with the same set of values.
“I’ve been in a position to affect many people’s lives in a positive way,” he says. “In most cases when people have contact with police it is because something has gone wrong in their own lives. I pride myself on providing support, compassion and empathy to those people at a time when they need it most.”