For nearly four decades, Del Block has been striving to prevent crime, protect Estevan's residents and be a positive influence in the community.
Block has a member of the Estevan Police Service (EPS) for 38 years; the last five years of his tenure were spent as the police chief. His final day of work with the EPS was on February 28, although he still has a couple of months of annual leave remaining before he officially retires.
He spent his final day wrapping up last-minute details, and saying farewell to the staff. Block said it was a “bitter-sweet” day, and a tough one for him.
“I had come to the realization that it wasn't going to be an easy day,” Block told Lifestyles. “I still have a lot of pride in the Estevan Police Service, and I still love doing my job. It's just time to make a change in life.”
Block knew when he was a Grade 10 student at the Carnduff High School that he wanted to be a police officer, after the RCMP came to the school to promote a career in policing.
“I just kept pursuing it, and then finally applied for the Estevan and Regina Police Service,” said Block.
Both agencies hired him, but timing proved to be the deciding factor in favour of Estevan.
“I chose Estevan because it had an earlier start date, and I had been waiting a long time to become a police officer,” he said. “I ultimately would have ended up in the same police college recruiting class, but I got to start work in May with Estevan, rather than in July with Regina.”
Estevan's proximity to Carnduff also factored into his decision.
Block remained loyal to the police service, and gained respect both locally and nationally. He was promoted to sergeant and then staff sergeant before finally becoming chief in 2009. On the national front, he was, at one time, the national vice-president for the Canadian Police Association.
The role of chief always interested him. Early in his career, he told the chief of the day, Ray Worsnop, about his aspirations.
“I had indicated to him, and I wasn't being a smart-ass about it, but I told him to take good care of the chair, because I hoped to sit in it some day,” said Block.
When Block joined the EPS on May 1, 1976, there were 17 officers: four platoons with four officers each, and a police chief. They didn't have special constables.
Now the EPS boasts 26 officers, including the chief. Several special constables are also part of the staff.
“When I took over the department (as chief), it was right when the economic boom was hitting the city, and the growth … we're still seeing today,” said Block. “There were some huge challenges.”
The police force had to grow to meet the demands of the community. Their calls for service have more than tripled in the last five years.
The biggest changes that Block has seen in Estevan have occurred in the last five years.
“There are new subdivisions, new hotels, new apartment buildings and condominium buildings,” said Block. “The growth has been amazing. The change in our population has been amazing.”
Estevan has had an influx of newcomers from other nations in recent years, too, and he said that development has enhanced the community.
Policing, and the justice system as a whole, have come a long ways since he first joined the police service. When Block's career began, they had light baby blue uniforms, flap holsters, plain vehicles that weren't well-equipped, and few portable radios. The equipment wasn't excellent, either.
“We've seen so many changes. The equipment, the training – have come light years,” said Block.
The computer age's arrivals meant that officers went from using typewriters to computers.
“I remember when the Estevan Police Service got its first computer, it was a Commodore 64, and we thought we were on top of the world,” said Block. “It made things different than using a typewriter. We just continued to grow from there, and it's unbelievable the changes that have taken place.
Block said he always found tremendous satisfaction in being there for his community, and helping its residents during a crisis.
“Only a police officer can pretty much tell you this, but the beauty of the job is there are never two days that are the same. Ever,” he said. “In 38 years, I don't think I had two days that were identical.”
An officer can go from a quiet shift to a treacherous situation in mere moments.
“You never know what's going to happen in any given shift,” said Block. “You might think you're going to do a certain thing when you come on duty, and within a flash, it's something different.”
But his passion for the job never wavered.
“Even until the … last day of work, I never had any problem getting out of bed and coming to work,” he said. “I loved the job, I loved working with the people, and working with the staff that I had.”
Two of his daughters have embarked on law enforcement careers, too. His eldest daughter is currently with the Saskatoon Police Service, and his youngest daughter is in training at the Saskatchewan police college, and will join the Regina Police Service upon graduation.
“My middle daughter is a nurse, and I'm proud of all three of my daughters for the career paths they have chosen,” said Block. “The fact that two of them have chosen to go into policing is a special feeling.”
He hasn't decided what he will do next. He sits on the RM of Estevan's council, and he has been balanced other community commitments with his duties as the chief.
He said he'd be willing to return in April and spend some time helping the new police chief, Paul Ladouceur, with the transition to Estevan, as long as Ladouceur and the police board agree to the arrangement.