After an impressive career spanning nearly three decades, Deputy Chief Murray Cowan of the Estevan Police Service is set to retire at the end of the month. As he prepares to step away, Cowan takes a moment to reflect on the evolution of policing and the impact it has had on both him and the community he served. 

Cowan joined the Estevan Police Service in July of 1995. He added that he wanted to be a police officer since he was a kid and was inspired by a presentation at a career day, and that he remembers holding onto an RCMP pamphlet in the school yard thinking he already met the height requirement.  
The TV show 'Emergency' reinforced the idea that he wanted to work in emergency services however he took a detour from policing and became a medical technician. Cowan added that leadership has always been something he was interested in, even as a medic. 

“It doesn’t matter if you are new to the organization or you’ve been around for several years,” said Cowan. “You are always looked up to and you're seen as a leader in the community and that’s one of the biggest rewards that I personally took away, and I like to make an effort to pass that along to others.” 

He demonstrated his leadership ability by becoming an EMS manager in the southeast.  His EMS experience was invaluable in his transition to law enforcement, the administrative background benefitted him as policing requires a lot of paperwork and documentation. His extroverted personality also benefited him as he was never shy about talking to people.  

Diversity in policing was a draw for Cowan as well, as there are many different career paths available. He rose through the ranks, first being promoted to a first-class constable, then a sergeant. In 2015 he was promoted to inspector, and in 2017 he was appointed deputy chief. 

Reminiscing on his time in the field Cowan said that there have been a lot of changes, but one of the most impactful changes was how they have embraced community-based policing. He added that his recruit class was one of the first to learn about this type of policing. Cowan explained that before the introduction of community-based policing, law enforcement mainly operated reactively.  

This meant reacting to events after they happened, or if they caught someone doing something illegal. He noted that it is still an integral part of policing, but it is just a piece of the puzzle.  
“That kind of policing does exist to this day, and it always will,” said Cowan. “However, research really was focusing on crime reduction and different ways to reduce crime and prevent crime before it happens.”  

Learning about proactive policing early on in his career had a major influence on his career and how he interacted with the community. He learned that it was important to be engaged and to build relationships within the community. With a focus on community groups, social services, youth, and local businesses.   

“It’s a great way to reduce crime rather than reacting after it happens or while it’s happening, which we still have to do, but preventing crime is the biggest thing.”  

The preventative aspect of policing remained an interest throughout his career as a deputy chief and as part of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Another big shift that happened was the focus on mental health. He said that he is impressed by the amount of knowledge there is on the subject compared to when he started. He noted that the thought process has changed and now they ask more questions about the causes and reasons behind irregular behaviours, and a lot of it is coming back to mental health and addictions.  

Throughout his career, Cowan continuously looked for opportunities to learn. He said there are countless professional development courses, but learned a lot from getting out and engaged in the community.  

“It is a very rewarding career, and I would say that policing is similar to any other career. It’s what you make of it. It’s the effort you put in.”  

He added that following your interests is important, and there are a lot of training opportunities at EPS. He said they have specialized units, the joint tactical team. They have forensics, serious crimes, drug units, and patrol units, and specialized training is required for all these opportunities.  

Although there were a lot of highlights, Cowan said that there were some downsides, as he saw horrific and traumatic things on the job. For his journey, the pros have largely outweighed the cons. He noted it was touching when community members reached out to him, and let him know that he had a direct impact on them getting the help they needed.
Cowan is currently enjoying some banked vacation time, before his official end date which is March 30.  

“It’s very different when you know that time is up. You lose an identity, you're not a police officer anymore. You're going back to civilian life, and I’m ready for it,” said Cowan. 

He described coming to this decision as an emotional roller coaster, but after discussing it with his wife and kids he ultimately knew that it was the right decision. He added that he stayed on longer than he originally planned, but now that the time has come to say goodbye to the career, it feels like it went by in the blink of an eye.  
Family time, and focusing on health will be a priority for Cowan as he readjusts to civilian life. He said he would be spending a good deal of time relaxing and distressing, but he mentioned he has a few hobbies he would like to focus on.  

“It’s a big change and I’m still wrapping my head around it. It’s interesting to get up in the morning and you don’t have to go to work anymore.”  

For Cowan, his time on the force was a dream come true. He said he won’t forget any of the people who supported him throughout his career, and without his wife and family’s support and patience, there is no way he could have achieved what he did.  

“It’s more than just a job, it’s what you make of it. But it’s also a lifestyle and whether you’re on or off duty, you’re still a police officer. You’re sworn in, you carry a badge, so it’s completely different to walk away knowing that, you know, you lose an identity.”  

As for his colleagues, Cowan said that the community is in good hands. He added that EPS is a great organization, with amazing people who are highly trained, and under great leadership.

“As sad as it is for me to move on, it's time and I'm ready to close this chapter and see what happens next.”