Chief Jim Chu: A leader for all sea­sons

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By JUSTINE HUANG in Van­cou­ver For China Daily

Serv­ing as the top cop in one of Canada’s largest cities might sound like a daunt­ing job, but for Jim Chu, who be­came the first non-white chief constable of the Van­cou­ver Po­lice Depart­ment in 2007, it’s a dream come true. It all started with a child­hood ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect for the po­lice.

“When I was young, po­lice of­fi­cers would come to my school and talk to us about how to cross the street,” Chu said in an in­ter­view with China Daily. “I re­ally ad­mired and re­spected those of­fi­cers. And when I got a lit­tle older, I served as the school’s safety pa­trol vol­un­teer help­ing kids cross the street.”

It was on a win­ter day in 1979 when the 19-year-old Chu was driv­ing to school and lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio that ev­ery­thing changed.

“I was go­ing to Simon Fraser Uni­ver­sity. It was a very cold, win­try day, and stud­ies were te­dious. Then the chief of the Van­cou­ver Po­lice Depart­ment came on the ra­dio an­swer­ing ques­tions,” re­called Chu. “Some­body phoned up and asked how to ap­ply to be­come a po­lice of­fi­cer, and he said just come down to 312 Main and put your ap­pli­ca­tion in.”

Chu turned his car around, went to the po­lice sta­tion and sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion. Three months later, he be­gan the first chap­ter of his ca­reer in the po­lice force as a constable on pa­trol.

Born in Shang­hai in 1959, Chu im­mi­grated to Canada with his fam­ily when he was 3. As the old­est of four chil­dren, Chu grew up in a tough east­side neigh­bor­hood of Van­cou­ver.

Since there were few Chi­nese im­mi­grants in the 1960s and 1970s, Chu felt both Chi­nese and Canadian when he grew up. He would go to Chi­na­town with his mother to buy gro­ceries and hasn’t forgotten Chi­nese tra­di­tions and her­itage. He still cel­e­brates Chi­nese New Year with his fam­ily and rel­a­tives.

De­spite en­coun­ter­ing racism as an eth­nic mi­nor­ity in school, Chu em­braced his Canadian iden­tity through his love of street hockey, base­ball, foot­ball and rugby.

“He was good at ath­let­ics, good at aca­demics. He was a standup guy, one of the more se­ri­ous in­di­vid­u­als,” says Nick Tra­solini, Chu’s rugby team­mate.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school, Chu con­tin­ued his stud­ies in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion while work­ing for the Van­cou­ver po­lice. His early as­sign­ments in­cluded pa­trol constable, school li­ai­son of­fi­cer and plan­ning and re­search.

Chu mar­ried fel­low Po­lice Of­fi­cer Vicki Markham and started a fam­ily. At the same time, he con­tin­ued to pur­sue higher ed­u­ca­tion, earn­ing an MBA from the Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia in 1989.

Later that year, he was pro­moted to cor­po­ral in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tion, and made de­tec­tive in 1990. He had in­ves­tiga­tive as­sign­ments on many high-pro­file cases.

De­spite the de­mands of both Chu and his wife work­ing as full-time po­lice of­fi­cers, the cou­ple went to as many of their chil­dren’s games and school events as they could.

“Fairly early on, you could tell he was a guy who had all kinds of po­ten­tial,” re­mem­bers Andy Hobbs, a friend of Chu’s who also grad­u­ated from the po­lice academy. “He was very com­pe­tent, very thought­ful. But the per­sonal thing I ad­mire most is just the fam­ily side of him.”

Dur­ing the 1990s, Chu was as­signed to a va­ri­ety of po­si­tions, in­clud­ing pa­trol sergeant, re­cruit­ing sergeant and project manager for emer­gency com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Even with his busy sched­ule, Chu still found time to serve as li­brary board trustee for eight years.

“Vol­un­teer­ing as a li­brary trustee was re­ward­ing and helped me with lead­er­ship and strate­gic-think­ing skills,” said Chu, who hopes more young Chi­nese-Cana­di­ans who want to be com­mu­nity lead­ers get in­volved in vol­un­teer work.

Chu has re­ceived a num­ber of awards, in­clud­ing a “Su­per Trustee” award from the BC li­brary as­so­ci­a­tion in 1999, an hon­orary de­gree from the Jus­tice In­sti­tute of BC in 2010, and a Dis­tin­guished Alumni award in 2010 from Simon Fraser Uni­ver­sity.

In 2001, he re­turned to pa­trol as an in­spec­tor and com­man­der.

“The in­ter­est­ing thing about polic­ing is you can have five or six jobs in your ca­reer,” said Chu. “I served as pa­trol sergeant for five years, so you are not only go­ing to 911 calls out on the streets of Van­cou­ver, you are also su­per­vis­ing oth­ers, and that taught me a lot about lead­ing peo­ple.”

Chu was pro­moted to deputy chief of the depart­ment’s sup­port ser­vices di­vi­sion in 2003, and deputy chief of op­er­a­tions sup­port in 2006.

“As a po­lice of­fi­cer and for ev­ery pro­mo­tion I had, it was im­por­tant for me to show I could do the job and that I wasn’t se­lected on the ba­sis of my eth­nic back­ground,” said Chu.

In May 2007, the gover­nor gen­eral awarded Chu the Or­der of Merit of Po­lice Forces. The fol­low­ing month Chu was named the new chief constable of the Van­cou­ver Po­lice Depart­ment.

On his watch, the city’s vi­o­lent crime and homi­cide rates dropped dramatically be­tween 2007 and 2014.

Some of his ca­reer high­lights in­clude dif­fus­ing gang wars, polic­ing the Win­ter Olympics in 2010, han­dling the Stan­ley Cup riot in 2011, set­tling an Oc­cupy protest at the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery in 2011, and hold­ing regular lunches with the home­less, drug users and sex work­ers.

“As po­lice chief, I re­ally wanted to again show that I have the knowl­edge of the city, I have the knowl­edge of polic­ing meth­ods and I could be a leader for this or­ga­ni­za­tion, and also a com­mu­nity builder,” said Chu.

“I think Van­cou­ver’s mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism can con­tinue to set an ex­am­ple for other parts of the world. But new­com­ers should un­der­stand that there is a ‘ Canadian cul­ture’ that ex­ists and they should find ways to learn more about their new coun­try,” Chu said.

The 36-year vet­eran has an­nounced he will re­tire as chief this spring af­ter nearly eight years in the top role.

Chief Constable of the Van­cou­ver Po­lice Depart­ment



Jim Chu,


Age: Ed­u­ca­tion: • Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Simon Fraser Uni­ver­sity MBA, Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia Grad­u­ate of the FBI Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive In­sti­tute

• Ca­reer: • Constable in Pa­trol (1979) • Cor­po­ral in Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sec­tion (1989-1990) De­tec­tive (1990-1991)

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