Harold David McNeill

Written by Harold McNeill on September 20th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


harold with rcmp 1994

Above (1994): The spit and polished, uniformed, Sergeant Harold David McNeill, completed the final months of his police career assigned to a Quick Response Squad working the Commonwealth Games. It seems hard to believe they actually gave me the keys to an RCMP Cruiser. That final few months in uniform and having the run of the city with a joint-forces squad was a great way to say goodbye to the force. (Mar 25, 2018, 1565)

About the Author

As a thirty-year member of the Oak Bay Police Department, it was my intention for several years to write a series of short stories about policing in Oak Bay and the Greater Victoria area, however, with each passing year, other demands took precedence. First, having a six year old son in elementary school when I retired, lead to a whole new area of interest that quickly consumed my life. No complaints though, as there can’t be many things better than starting retirement when the last of your four children is just starting school.

McNeill FamilyThen, part way through the school years, after becoming heavily involved in PAC projects, I branched into soccer, first as a coach, then at the local, provincial, national and international level as board member or assisting with the organizing international soccer ‘friendlies’ and other competitions on behalf of the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA.

Photo (Janury, 2011) Son-in-law, Chris and daughter Christine LeClair, Lynn and Harold McNeill holding grandson Grayson Walker, Kari McNeill-Walker, Sean McNeill, Jay McNeill. Missing from photo, son-in-law, Edward Walker.

Following conclusion of the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup and approaching my seventies, the time had come to seriously put my fingers to the keyboard. Having made a good start on documenting several early life experiences of our family while living in wilderness areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta, my police notebooks have been dusted off and that series is now well under way.  My problem, I get caught up in issues of the day and always find some political or religious matter to write about. How did I get here? 

My police career began not long after I woke up one day and realized being locked up working a 24 hour on, 48 off shift with the Dockyard Fire Department, was not my ‘cup of tea’. Dockyard was light years removed from the few years spent with the US Air Force at CFB Cold Lake where my emergency services career began as a Crash Rescue Fireman. When the USAF Base closed, I ended up in Victoria working at Dockyard for less than a year before a school friend and fellow fireman, Morris Hill and I, decided to make the break. Morris’s brother, an RCMP officer in Nanaimo, suggested police work would be an interesting alternative. The die was cast.

After dropping applications at all the local departments, I was soon grabbed by the Oak Bay PD and Morris, by Esquimalt PD. It seems the Chief Constables of those departments quickly recognized our considerable potential and signed us before any of the other departments had a chance to submit a bids.

While working in a small department created some limits, those limits were not nearly as great as some might think. Not only was the job interesting, it provided a great deal of freedom to act with personal initiative, initiative that sometimes required bending a few rules. In that regard however, I could not be held fully accountable as it was part of a genetic string I inherited from my father.

Harold 1966

As ongoing education in police circles was gaining momentum and recognized as good investment, I sought, and received, considerable support first, in completing an Associate of Arts Diploma at Camosun College and then, a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Victoria.  It was a wonderful educational run for which I am grateful for the support.

Photo (1966) The author a short time after graduating from the Vancouver Police Academy.

It was my intention to continue studies at the new UVic Law School, but over the years of policing, I slowly came to realize I much preferred the perquisites that came with a set of police car keys, a badge in my pocket and the freedom to float about the community largely at my leisure.

Also, after having become friends with a number of prosecutors, it was hard to discern the benefits of making a jump into a profession that was over worked, under paid and under appreciated. Had I moved in that direction, it would not have been long before I took a stab at forming a Prosecutors Union1, as union work was something in which I had been heavily involved for many years.

From the 1960s to the early 1980s, following in the footsteps of one of Greater Victoria’s finest union leaders, Oak Bay’s Sergeant Jack Groves, I continued the fight for better wages and working conditions while serving first as Union Secretary under Jack, then President of the Oak Bay Police Union, as well as working with other police and fire unions in Greater Victoria and as a trustee with the BC Federation of Police Officers.

There were many tough battles; a couple of strikes (called ‘work to rule’) as well as a prolonged confrontation with the Ottawa based Anti-Inflation Board (we beat them back). In the end, were able to bring police working conditions and wages in British Columbia in line with other forces across Canada and, finally, to a level that provided a reasonable standard of living. In view of having put in all that time, it seemed foolish to toss away those gains just for the prestige of an LLB and pushing paper in a small, underfunded and under appreciated office.

Harold UCWhile promotions were slow in coming, I snail-paced my way through the ranks serving as Constable, Senior-Constable, Detective-Constable, Sergeant and Detective-Sergeant where my career stalled for reasons that will be evident in many of the stories posted on this blog. Perhaps a few of the reasons have already become evident in some of the posts!

Photo: As a newly minted Sergeant and returning to the Oak Bay after several months serving with a joint-forces surveillance unit, the Chief Constable gently suggested I consider buying a suit, clipping my locks and at least trimming my beard before taking up duties in the Detective Office. Strangely, my wife and family also thought it was a great idea!  

During the central point of my career, and after constantly advocating an update of our police records system, written policies, procedures and job descriptions, the Chief finally gave me the go-a-head. I suspect this was done simply to get me off his back.

Assigned to straight days, over the next a year and a half I managed to ruffle more than a few feathers as job descriptions were written and posted, reporting systems and statistical procedures modernized, and a policy and procedure manual written and published. By the late 1970s, the outcome not only placed Oak Bay (along with Saanich) as local leaders in records management and statistical reporting systems, it earned me the nickname “Memo Man”, a name which stuck for the rest of my police career and into my volunteer work.

In my spare time, I completed my Commercial Pilots Licence at the Victoria Flying Club, then, along with three other police members, including my long time friend Morris Hill and two of our RCMP curling friends, Neil Dickson and Dave Wilson, managed win a National Curling championship in Calgary. Getting married, starting my first family, building a home and hobby farm in Saanich, filled a bit of the left over time.

In 1984, on the second time around, I met and married a wonderful woman, Lynn Davis. At the time of our marriage, Lynn happened to be Executive Secretary to the Chief Constable.  As I was President of the Police Union, our plans to marry resulted in another very interesting ‘heart-to-heart’ with the Chief Constable and a career change for Lynn.

After becoming the step-father of a twelve year old, at forty-seven, Lynn and I received a call on April 1, 1987, from Dr. Mary Wynne Ashford, telling us to sit down as she had some interesting news. No, it was no April Fools joke! Seven months later, on November 5, 1987, Lynn and I became the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy, Sean David McNeill. Life certainly takes many interesting turns.

While there is little upon which I would look back with anything approaching regret, there is perhaps (well, just perhaps), one thing. I think I should have shown a little more compassion for the half dozen Police Chiefs and as many Sergeants who had the extreme good fortune of having me work under their command. I salute their fortitude.

I hope readers will find a few of the stories being released from those secret files held behind “The Tweed Curtain”, of some interest.

Harold McNeill
October, 2011

For a short Biography of Lynn Frances McNeill (Davis) go to: A Life Long Learner

1. I felt the same about the rank and file RCMP officers who, since the force became heavily involved in Municipal and City policing in the 1950s, desperately needed a union to drag their working conditions and management structures into the 20th Century. Had that happened back in the 1970s when a number of RCMP members had made a valiant attempt, it seems likely many of the problems faced by the force today would have been averted.

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  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.

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  • Valerie Heuman (Roddick)

    June 19, 2016 |

    Having just returned to the Okanagan Valley from a weekend in Pibroch, I am delighted to have stumbled on your blog to see the picture of the main street. My aunt and uncle Peggy & Gordon McGillvery owned and lived in the old Post Office on the North east corner of the main intersection and my brother Adrian currently lives south a bit backing on the School yard. We are Sheila’s cousins and still have a close connection to the town.

  • Sheila(Roddick) Allison

    May 19, 2016 |

    Hi. So fun to find your blog. I remember going to school with you and Louise. I loved my childhood in Pibroch which incidentally was named by my grandfather Aaron Roddick. I will never forget the night the garage burned down. Nice to see the landmark photo before the big fire!

  • George Dahl

    April 12, 2016 |

    What a great site. I’m trying to locate a woman named Sally Jennifer who was from the Cold Lake area back in the early sixties. I met her when I was stationed at Namao air base in Edmonton. I was serving with the USAF 3955 air refueling squadron from rhe fall 1963 till the spring of 64. Sally was 22 at the time I was 21. Sally was my first love. I had orders to ship out to South East Asia and we lost contact after that.
    If any of you know the where abouts of Sally I would like to get reacquainted with her. She is First Nation, Blackfoot I believe. She is Catholic and may have attended a Catholic school in Cold Lake.
    Thank You in advance, George Dahl

  • dave armit

    March 23, 2016 |

    good old fashioned police work done by good old fashioned policemen……….in regards to mr cain..i learned a few years ago that he was born on the same day in the same hospital that i was..my father was a close friend of the cain family…!!! interesting..d a

  • Joyce McMenamon

    March 1, 2016 |

    Haha, love it! We should probably eat rats and rabbits rather than beef. Also I’ve noticed that there are a lot less pests where dogs are not kept on leashes.

  • Kari

    February 27, 2016 |

    Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane Dad!!! That was an amazing trip and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to share that experience together!
    ❤️