Looking back at his 37-year career with the RCMP retired sergeant Moe Monita says he had a good time.
Monita, who retired in March, doesn’t hesitate to say his was a fantastic career. Something he’d do again in a heartbeat.
Back in 1974, after eight months of working as a land surveyor, Monita decided he was bored.
“I couldn’t see myself doing that kind of work. I’d go up north and do a survey and a lot of guys would go with me, usually four or five in a crew. They’d have young families, be gone four or five days at a time, and I didn’t like that. I thought it’d be tough,” he recalls.
The decision to sign up for the RCMP emerged one evening over a couple of beers in Winnipeg, when he and a friend got talking and resolved on Monday morning they’d go in and join up.
“We went down and applied and three months later I was in Regina. It was that quick.
“I got through it. It took six months. It was quite a challenge mentally and physically, but they prepare you so well for things on the outside and the inside. It was amazing.”
His first posting was in Nanaimo where he spent eight years. He arrived there in November 1974 and describes it as a very good place to begin his career.
“I enjoyed it there. I did uniformed general duties, but one year worked with composite drawing. People would describe what they’d seen as a suspect and I’d draw it out. I did that for a year or so and the RCMP said that to be in that section I had to be part of the Forensic Identification Unit.”
The FIS dealt with fingerprints, physical matchings, hair, blood, and fibre, receiving and taking samples from crime scenes, and photographing crime scenes.
He joined the FIS and went to Ottawa in January 1981 and took a two-month course that dealt with forensics.
“It’s probably the most difficult course offered by the RCMP. It’s so precise.”
After working as an apprentice for one year, he was assigned to work in Cranbrook, arriving in March 1981, and took a one-year understudy program in forensics.
He passed successfully and spent another five and a half years in Cranbrook, years he describes as “great” with “fabulous” people. It’s beautiful country, he says, adding he goes back there every year to hunt elk and visit good friends.
In July 1987, he was transferred to Williams Lake to take up a position, making him half the forensic section.
He and Jim Percival covered a huge territory — from 70 Mile House to McLeese Lake, and west to Bella Coola.
“There was a lot more serious scenarios and crime than in Cranbrook and Nanaimo. You had more stabbings, shootings and violent crimes in this area. Cranbrook was actually quite slow and boring. I came up here and it was the opposite.”
Today the department has grown to a three-person section, and it also looks after Quesnel and Hixon, he adds.
It is still a busy place for the police, he says, but things have slowed down since the early days.
Monita believes policing strategies have changed and that could account for less activity.
Monita credits Insp. Warren Brown of the Williams Lake RCMP for doing an excellent job.
“I have to give him kudos,” he says.
Recalling one of the first calls he went to in Nanaimo, he says it was probably one of the hardest.
A man was working on the differential on a loaded Pepsi truck, when the block gave way, and it crumbled down on him, killing him.
They took photographs, did interviews, called the ambulance, and then had to let the man’s wife know what had a happened.
“I go to the door, knock on the door, and she opens the door and she’s nine-months pregnant. I can’t imagine a worse call than that. I was fumbling for words trying to tell her what happened.”
Eventually Monita’s trainer stepped in and told her what had transpired, and then when they left he told Monita there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to deliver sad news.
“You just have to tell the person what happened. The longer you wait, the worse it gets,” the trainer said.
The two officers arrived back home at 8 a.m. and then had to report for the autopsy at 9 a.m.
“I didn’t get home until noon. That was the longest shift of my life,” Monita says.
Attending a couple of shootings in those first few years gave him similar experiences and he admits he stopped to think a few times that perhaps a surveying career wouldn’t have been so bad after all.
“This job you see a lot of things the public doesn’t see because you’re dealing behind the scenes. It’s amazing. In this job I’ve seen the best in people and I’ve seen the absolute worst in people. The funniest scenes to the worst you can imagine.”
Outside of work and hunting, Monita loves to draw — pencil sketches of people fill his sketch books. He also loves to curl.
Pouring over a photo album, Monita points to photographs of his days training at depot, the time the Tribune depicted him eating a gingerbread cookie at Cataline Elementary School and the cutline read “Mountie gets his man.”
Pausing, he shares that the crime scenes never impacted his sleep. He could get a call in the middle of the night, go out, and come back to sleep a few hours before resuming work.
“I’ve never had a problem. When I got close to 35 years, the guys at the office suggested I go see a counsellor in Kamloops.”
At the appointment the counsellor asked about work, crime scenes and whether Monita could sleep at night. He then invited Monita to go into his woodworking shop.
“We went next door and we looked at his woodwork projects for an hour or so. Then I asked him if I was OK or would there be a problem down the road?”
The counsellor looked at Monita, and said, “I think you’re more stable than I am.”
For now Monita plans to take the summer off, and then in the fall might look at possibly working part-time, maybe guiding.
His wife Donna has five more years before she retires, and together they have four grown children who are gone from Williams Lake.
Monita says they plan to stay here after they’ve both retired.