With an empathetic spirit forged on the gritty streets of Vancouver in the 60s as a beat cop, Bob McIntosh has continued to use that experience to help others in Williams Lake for over two decades now.
“It’s a great place to live. There’s so much to offer,” McIntosh said of the lakecity. “The people in the community are amazing, and I just enjoy dealing with people through volunteering my time.”
While still working with the Williams Lake RCMP as Staff Sergeant prior to his retirement in 2001, McIntosh helped found community policing’s Citizens on Patrol in 2000 — a volunteer group working to be the “eyes and ears of the community.”
“I’ve worked with a lot of people here in Williams Lake over the years and they’re all very sincere individuals who want to make this a better community overall.”
He also volunteered with the Canadian Mental Health Association, was a board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a big brother to two youths in the community, was a Rotary Club of Williams Lake member and coached both soccer and lacrosse. Today, he is still the chairperson with Citizens on Patrol, and is proud of the work the group has done to get youth involved with the organization.
McIntosh, who was born and raised in Vancouver, joined the Navy in his teens, before working at the Oakalla Prison Farm in Burnaby in his 20s.
Working as a corrections officer at the prison — built in 1912 and considered a tense place at the best of times — McIntosh began to impart his approachable, social skills on inmates. Listening to their stories, he learned to empathize.
“It was a very interesting job, but I saw the Vancouver Police Department was hiring so I left Oakalla and joined the VPD where I worked for approximately seven years, starting in 1964,” he said.
McIntosh was stationed as a foot patrol, or beat officer, in the notorious 100 East Hastings St. block, and also along Granville Street.
“It was good policing in those days,” he said. “There were a lot of drug addicts, heroin addicts, prostitutes and those who were just down and out, from all walks of life. But getting to meet those people was an eye opener and good training for me, and just listening to people, and getting to know them.”
Meanwhile, McIntosh met his wife, Penny, who was working as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital at the time. The couple soon purchased a home in Mission, and started a family, which made commuting to downtown Vancouver for work difficult.
“So I applied for the Matsqui Police Department, where I worked in plain clothes. Most of my career was doing investigations of a more series nature,” he said.
A jurisdictional police department, McIntosh had the opportunity to work closely with the RCMP during his several years with the MPD.
“I joined the RCMP in 1975, and my first post was in Haney, B.C., which is now Maple Ridge,” he said.
From there he transferred back to Mission as a plain-clothes officer working on long-term investigations, spent time working in the commercial crime unit in Vancouver and also worked the VIP section — even providing protection for Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Australia and Princess Margaret, to name a few, during their visits to the Lower Mainland.
During that time McIntosh and Penny raised three boys — Stuart, Andrew and Callum. In 1990, McIntosh took a promotion as sergeant in Kitimat, which he said was a great detachment to work at.
“Unfortunately at that time I got lung cancer, but managed to come out on top,” he said. “We made national news — the whole detachment shaved their heads to show their support. Eight bald officers showed up at my house.”
After four years in Kitimat, and another four years stationed in Prince Rupert where he was promoted to Staff Sergeant, McIntosh arrived in Williams Lake as Staff Sergeant in 1997.
“It was new, and it was nice to come further this way, after being so far removed from everything,” he said. “Williams Lake was a great location, and I’m proud of the work I did here and during my career.
“I just really enjoyed getting out and talking to people, and finding out what’s happening — talking to business people, talking to street people, people in the park, such a variety. The key: even people that appear to be down and out — they have a story to tell, and you’ve got to try to understand.”
This past November, McIntosh again faced a bout with cancer — this time defeating esophagus cancer through chemotherapy treatments.
Transferring to Williams Lake, he said, was the best move he made.
“All in all it’s been a great life.”