There may be a new face at the helm of the Wakaw RCMP, but Sgt. Adam Von Niessen is really just a familiar face a few years older. Von Niessen lived in Alvena until the passing of his father Hank, when he was ten years old. His mother Liz, then moved the family to Saskatoon where Adam finished his schooling. Adam took over command of the Wakaw detachment at the end of June 2022, leaving his job as Watch Commander at the Battleford detachment where he had been stationed for the past four years. Prior to being stationed in Battleford, Von Niessen was in Porcupine Plain and Hudson Bay, SK before that, following eight years in Manitoba.
In an interview on Wednesday August 18th, he said that he’d ‘had his eye’ on the Wakaw detachment for a number of years and he was really very excited to be here. “It feels like coming home,” Von Niessen told this reporter. He remembers fondly riding the bus from Alvena to school here in Wakaw and attending Cub Scout meetings at the Legion Hall. A lot of things have changed in Wakaw since the 1980’s, but he can point out where things used to be, and of course the families he had strong friendships with are still here too. Since his dad is buried here, Adam said that he has stopped often over the years and that the longer he is back, the more people he remembers. All-in-all, he has fond memories of Wakaw and perhaps spending his early years here helped to instill his fondness for camping and fishing, activities he does with his family as often as they can.
Adam shared that although he is married and has two boys, aged 10 and 12, they will not be joining him here. He explained that being an RCMP officer’s wife has meant that his wife has had to sacrifice a lot, moving many times and starting over again and again so that he could advance his career. So, when she started a new career in a place she enjoyed, he said that he couldn’t ask her to give that up, instead on his days off most often him will be on the road home to his family to coach his boys, and follow them as they play basketball, baseball and whatever other sport they choose to become involved in.
The Wakaw RCMP detachment polices the Rural Municipalities of Fish Creek, Hoodoo and St Louis which include the towns of Cudworth and Wakaw, the villages of St. Benedict, Yellow Creek, Tway, Alvena, Domremy, Bellevue and Hoey, along with the One Arrow First Nation and the resort beaches that surround Wakaw Lake. Covering what, to the general public, seems to be a large geographical area can be a challenge and as Von Niessen says, ‘no one commits a crime in front of a police officer’, however the detachment is meeting the challenge through a mutual aid agreement with the Rosthern detachment and relying on partnerships with local Crime Watch groups, the Saskatchewan Highway patrol, and Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management personnel. “It takes a community to police a community,” is a quote that Von Niessen believes in. Those who are intent on committing a crime do so where it is easiest, where the opportunity is available. They seek out areas where they are least likely to be seen and therefore ‘caught in the act’ and that is where the community comes in. They become the eyes and ears of the police, passing on information and helping to identify individuals suspected to be involved in local crime.
When asked about his goals for the detachment, Adam shared that one of his focus areas is the prolific offenders and those who are not in custody, but are out on conditions, and reduce the number of repeat crimes. As well, he would like to actively promote the community policing model and be more visible in the community, and not just behind the wheel of a squad car. So, what is community policing? The community policing model comes from an entirely different attitude than traditional policing. At its core, community policing is a shifting of priority: community needs and public trust over traditional crime control methods. It relies on a more proactive form of finding solutions, from officers who have become familiar to locals over a period of time, and that familiarity begins at a young age. That being said, Von Niessen shared that he is looking forward to school starting so he can get into the schools to meet kids and as activities ramp up for winter being a visible and approachable presence in the communities the detachment serves.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder