Harold David McNeill

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


harold with rcmp 1994

Above (1994): The spit-polished, uninformed, 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)

July 24, 2018.   I moved this post to the front page for the young man (well, it’s relative) I just met first at Tim Hortons and then on Viaduct Ave. West.  He lived in Oak Bay during the time of my police career and seemed to have some misconceptions about the work done by Oak Bay Police Officers.

While some of the stories I mentioned to him (the Telesford Murder (about a serial rapist) and Murder on Dennison Road, have yet to be written, a number of case stories have been completed.  For instance, try “Conspiracy to Rob BC Ferries“, “Death in a Whale Pool“, or “Abducted: The First Twelve Hours” to just a few.

Otherwise, the index carries hundreds of stories on this blog, about half of which are indexed.

Cheers,   Harold McNeill

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 are 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 the 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 underway.  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’. The 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 bid.

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, an 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 a 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 overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. 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-ahead. 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 longtime friend Morris Hill and two of our RCMP curling friends, Neil Dickson and Dave Wilson, managed to 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 leftover time.

In 1984, 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): 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.

(1886)

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Comments (3)

  • DOROTHY MARSHALL
    November 15, 2021 at 12:21 pm |

    Enjoyed your story Harold Dorothy Hartman

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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read your life account of Pibroch excellent.
    My family mowed to Pibroch in 1942 Dad was grain buyer for Searle Grain Company lived in town for 5 years than mowed one mile East to the farm on the corner of the road from Pibroch and Hwy 44. Bro Don still lives there.I went to school with both you and Louise.