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TPS officer awarded a win for community involvement

Posted on January 18, 2024 by Taber Times
Times Photo by Cal Braid Citizen of the year: Chris Nguyen wins the award for the 2023 Citizen of the Year.

By Cal Braid
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Hats off to one of Taber’s finest, Cst. Chris Nguyen, for being chosen as Citizen of the Year by the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will host an awards dinner on Dec. 19, and Nguyen will accept the nod of approval.

He said he’s not sure how the award came about or what criteria the Chamber used to identify candidates, but, “My understanding is that they get nominations from the community, and I think they got the wrong guy in this situation,” he said good-naturedly. “This community is chock full of incredible people.”

Nguyen has worked in many capacities, including patrols and crime scenes, and is currently entrusted as the school resource officer (SRO) for the Taber Police Service. He said it’s the most reviewed and supported program in the TPS, and from the way he speaks it’s clear that he believes his role is valuable. “The role of the school resource officer is to liaise with all schools, students, and staff in the community. It provides a presence and guidance, and deals with any matters related to any potential criminality.” He helps with dispute resolution and educational programs as well.

“I’m blessed to be able to work in all the schools here in Taber, Monday to Friday. It’s kind of like banker’s hours, it’s a pretty sweet gig,” he said. “I’m involved with all 11 schools in many capacities throughout the week, So usually I’ll split my time between two schools in a day,  unless there’s an emergency where I have to respond to threat assessments or anything like that.”

“The biggest thing behind it is that if I’m involved enough and proactive enough, that helps build relationships with our youth. That way, when they see other police officers or see me in the summertime when I’m back on patrols, we’ve got that pre-existing relationship. They’re not afraid to come up to us. I’m pretty proud of that. It’s not just me; we’ve had this program running since 1999, so I’m standing on the shoulders of giants like my predecessors who built a program up before me. It’s just a fantastic thing that we have and I’m grateful that our community still supports it.”

He said the ‘defund the police’ movement and other controversies have caused places like Edmonton and Vancouver to shut down their SRO programs. “It’s unfortunate that some people feel that way,” he said. “Maybe they’ve had negative experiences, and I wish that weren’t the case, but we pride ourselves on being a small town police service and are all about community policing.”

Nguyen has been policing since 2000 and with the TPS since 2010. After graduating from the RCMP Academy, he started his policing career on the Blood Tribe Reserve before relocating to Taber with his family. Now, in his twenty-fourth year he’s only 18 months away from potentially retiring, and is a relatively young man to be in that position. His personality brims with an infectious optimism, and it’s easy to see why he was chosen for the SRO positions. He’s non-threatening and non-imposing; certainly not the stereotype that some might have of a gruff cop. “That’s key,” he said. “Not just for the school system but for the community. I have always tried to conduct myself (in that way) as a police officer. We’re not here to impose our will or exert authority. We’re ambassadors of humanity; we are here to serve. That’s always been my mindset, whether it’s in the schools dealing with children or dealing with adults. That’s the way it has to be.”

When the Chamber informed Nguyen of his award, the president told him there had been several nominations from the community, but one in particular had struck him: One of the students from the high schools had taken time to write a letter praising Nguyen. “That really got me,” he said. “I really appreciate that. That’s really high acknowledgment and complimentary if that’s where one of the nominations came from.”

He talked about growing up in Lethbridge and how it was always home, but since moving to Taber with his family in 2010, this has become the place he wants to be. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I can’t imagine raising my family anywhere else. There are so many great people who contribute to making this community a safe place and a healthy place for everyone. I can’t understand how out of all the people who I’m so grateful to interact with on a daily basis, that I’m the one that’s worthy of this honour. I don’t understand it.”

“If I am worthy of this nomination, I definitely didn’t get here by myself. It wasn’t because of anything I did as a solo person. Working collaboratively with different groups in schools, my office and the work that we do in the community–that’s what makes it meaningful.”

He’s been deemed worthy, and will take it this year. And why not? It’s probably one of those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences.

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