Through the dark­ness

Hants County na­tive finds peace­ful haven in the close com­mu­nity of his home town

Truro Daily News - - Front Page - BY COLIN CHISHOLM

A re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer who lives in Hants County looks back on a ca­reer that had more than its share of dark times.

Tom Thomp­son says Hants County has be­come his se­cu­rity blan­ket after a ca­reer filled with car­nage in the Hal­i­fax Po­lice Depart­ment.

It’s his home, his sanc­tu­ary and it’s his dis­trac­tion from the chaos he en­dured while in the front lines of Hal­i­fax’s crime world.

With an arm­ful of old news­pa­pers, where he man­aged to find him­self on the front page dur­ing ma­jor events in the city, Thomp­son opens up about the im­pact his life in polic­ing has had on him.

“There was this lit­tle guy, and his mother was dy­ing of breast cancer and she let him go next door to play with his friend. A per­son came around the cor­ner with a steak knife and the first blow went right be­tween the skull and the scalp as far as the knife would go. I’m talk­ing a four-yearold kid,” Thomp­son said, his voice break­ing a cou­ple of times.

“He put his hand up like that,” he said, ges­tur­ing with his arm. “And it went right through his hand, in through his scalp and skull, and the tip of the knife was lodged in his brain. Well, you just don’t go home and have sup­per after that.” Luck­ily, the child was OK. “I re­mem­ber get­ting home, only to turn right around and go back to the hos­pi­tal and sit there all night un­til I knew he was go­ing to make it,” he said. “Kids are rub­bery, and just by the grace of God he’s alive and well.”

Thomp­son re­calls the child’s mother as hav­ing a smile that would light up a room. He helped out with fundrais­ers for the fam­ily and be­came close to them after the in­ci­dent. The mother even­tu­ally suc­cumbed to cancer.

“I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber that one,” Thomp­son said, his head bowed.

His me­mory is full of graphic scenes from his ca­reer. It’s some­thing that he lives with, that has changed him.

‘If I had to do it all over

again, I wouldn’t’

He says now he doesn’t know

what drew him to polic­ing to be­gin with.

“And if I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t. But I have the ut­most re­spect for the guys and the girls that are out there to­day.”

Peo­ple would of­ten ask him how he han­dles it. His go-to re­sponse would be that he didn’t have time to think about it be­cause he’s head­ing for the next one.

But now, re­tired from that ca­reer, the mem­o­ries still come back from his decades of ser­vice with the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Po­lice, fac­ing the city’s most heinous crimes.

“I don’t re­ally talk about it any­more. That was then, it was a chap­ter in my life that I didn’t re­al­ize what I was go­ing through,” he said.

Thomp­son grew up in the Wind­sor area, at­tend­ing Kings Col­lege School (KCS), where he was the head boy of the 1974 grad­u­at­ing class.

Thomp­son found out he was ac­cepted into the RCMP on his grad­u­a­tion day but had to wait un­til he turned 19. He did his

train­ing in Regina with the RCMP in 1975 be­fore trans­fer­ring to the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Po­lice. Thomp­son re­calls his first fa­tal­ity on High­way 101, which he calls a “high­way through hell.” He per­son­ally re­sponded to nine fa­tal­i­ties driv­ing be­tween his home and work.

“You learn from each and ev­ery one of those ex­pe­ri­ences,” he said. “If ev­ery­body would go get their ba­sic first aid train­ing, air­ways, breath­ing and cir­cu­la­tion, pretty ba­sic stuff, it would help.” ‘IT WAS JUST NON-STOP’ After a few years in uni­form, Thomp­son went to Ot­tawa for train­ing in foren­sic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion at the Cana­dian Po­lice Col­lege. He be­came heav­ily in­volved with crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tion after that, col­lect­ing ev­i­dence, tak­ing pho­tos of crime scenes, mon­i­tor­ing au­top­sies and more.

“Metro, in and around the city, there were days that it was just non-stop,” he said. “You didn’t know what the next in­ci­dent would be. You were al­ways wait­ing for the big catch, one that would take some time and in­volve a lot of in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques.”

De­spite the chaos and the vi­o­lence, Thomp­son was con­stantly im­pressed by the skill and the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors he worked with.

Luck­ily, he had peo­ple in his life who would of­fer ad­vice or lis­ten to his sto­ries to help him get through the tough mo­ments.

“In the old days, if you ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing re­ally trau­matic they gave you’re a bot­tle (of booze) and sent you home. That’s how a lot of my friends coped. I was never a drinker,” he said.

Thomp­son even­tu­ally trans­ferred out of the crime scene iden­ti­fi­ca­tion depart­ment in July 2007 and worked in the drug en­force­ment divi­sion.

One of his main roles was keep­ing tabs on sev­eral sources, whom he got to know well.

“I could just roll down the win­dow, yell out the name (redacted) and out of the fog in the dark­ness this guy would come out,” he said.

“I re­mem­ber two Moun­ties look­ing at each other and say­ing ‘this is spooky.’ I was well known for the num­ber of in­for­mants I had. I al­ways tried to see the lit­tle bit of good in ev­ery­body.”

Be­fore re­tir­ing, Thomp­son worked out of the Sackville de­tach­ment in a joint-forces traffic op­er­a­tion made up of three RCMP mem­bers and seven HRP mem­bers.

He viewed it a good way to fin­ish off his ca­reer in polic­ing.

Hants County a haven

“I think the big­gest cop­ing mech­a­nism for me is Hants County it­self,” Thomp­son said. “We come from one of the most beau­ti­ful places in the world.”

It’s re­fresh­ing to walk down a street where peo­ple say “good morn­ing” to each other.

“As a po­lice­man, you be­come very sus­pi­cious of ev­ery­body, you al­ways won­der what’s go­ing on in their head, what are they up to?” he said. “When you do that ev­ery day, day in day out, for so many years, it has an ef­fect on you.

“But I don’t see that around here. You can breathe the fresh air, you don’t have to sit with your back against the wall, watch­ing the door­way,” he said.

CoLin CHiSHoLM/HantS JoUR­naL

Ed­i­tor’s Note: This story con­tains some graphic de­tails. Tom Thomp­son said Hants County it­self has been a ma­jor cop­ing mech­a­nism for him after decades in the dark­est cor­ners of Hal­i­fax’s crime world.

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