Brandon Police Chief Keith Atkinson received a fond farewell Wednesday, as his colleagues and friends gathered to honour his 33 years in law enforcement.
A special retirement ceremony was held for Atkinson in the Grey Owl dining room at Assiniboine Community College’s North Hill campus.
"Today, we’re recognizing a remarkable law enforcement career that spanned 33 years, not just in two provinces but overseas," said Justice Minister Andrew Swan.
Swan went on to say that Atkinson has accomplished a great deal in his six years as the chief of the Brandon Police Service.
Atkinson oversaw the construction of the city’s new police station and introduced CompStat, which allows the force to track crime trends and adjust policing accordingly.
"Keith’s accomplishments have not ended at the city limits," Swan said. "Keith has truly been a police leader … a progressive and strong voice in the law enforcement community across the province."
Atkinson served internationally in the United Nations mission in Kosovo as a civilian police officer. Prior to his time with BPS, he worked for 27 years with the Saskatoon Police Service. He served on the board of directors for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police as Manitoba director, and spent two terms as president of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police.
Devon Clunis, current president of MACP and chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, recalled when he first met Atkinson in 2007.
"I was a very junior inspector in the police service, you were president of the MACP," Clunis said. "Right away I was impressed with this man, I thought he brought such an incredible sense of professionalism to the meeting, very organized. But as serious as it could be at times, what I appreciated about you was, still you were able to have a lot of fun. Always this great smile on his face."
Clunis thanked Atkinson for building a "unified police community."
Insp. Ian Grant, who is the incoming chief of police, was the master of ceremonies.
After making a few digs about Atkinson’s home province of Saskatchewan and the Roughriders, Grant had some kind words for his predecessor.
"It only seems like yesterday that we gathered at city hall for his swearing-in ceremony. Now we are here to say goodbye. Where does the time go?" Grant said.
In the crowd of 100 in attendance, there were representatives from law enforcement, government, military, education, among others.
"This cross-section of attendees speaks volumes about the chief and what he’s accomplished and the lives that he has touched," Grant said.
Also in attendance were Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell, Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, former mayor Dave Burgess and city manager Scott Hildebrand.
When Atkinson took the podium, he said he has been "humbled" to serve as Brandon’s 17th police chief for the past six years.
"We, and I say ‘we’ because we are a team at Brandon Police Service," he said. "We accomplished much during that time. I have always been impressed with the members’ dedication to the job and commitment to the community."
Atkinson took a moment to thank his "most important partner," his wife Terry.
"(She) has stuck with me in all my wildest adventures," he said. "It’s now time to publicly thank her."
Atkinson will officially retire on Jan. 25.
"Thanks very much for this day, it’ll be a day I’ll remember and cherish forever," he said.
As for what’s next, Atkinson took the opportunity to announce the kickoff of his campaign to run for mayor … of "the Siesta Retirement Village in Texas."