RCMP inspector off to help build South Sudan

A camel rests its head on Walt Sutherland during his service with the United Nations on the West Bank in 2008. Sutherland will be spending the next year on a similar mission in South Sudan. - PHOTO CONTRIBUTED
A camel rests its head on Walt Sutherland during his service with the United Nations on the West Bank in 2008. Sutherland will be spending the next year on a similar mission in South Sudan.
— image credit: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Walt Sutherland built a life in the RCMP. He's risen through the ranks from general duty officer to VIP security to Inspector. Now in the twilight of his 36-year career, he's helping build a country.

On Tuesday, the Burnaby native and Burnaby Central grad who served in detachments around Metro Vancouver before returning to his hometown force as an Inspector two years ago, embarked on a year-long mission to the new nation of South Sudan. He's part of a contingent of 19 officers from across Canada who will be working with the United Nations to create the infrastructure needed to bring peace and security to a country borne from more than 20 years of civil war.

It's not the first time Sutherland has stepped into an international political cauldron; in 2008 he spent a year on a similar UN mission in Palestine, assessing their police training methods, creating a training curriculum, and laying the groundwork for a police training school.

This time, he expects there will be even more to do. South Sudan only became an independent nation last July. The civil war killed about 2 million people and displaced another 4 million. It has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. The average life expectancy is 58. More than three per cent of the population has been infected with HIV/AIDS.

Those are just some of the staggering facts Sutherland will learn during 10 days of training and cultural education in Ottawa before his contingent flies to Juba, South Sudan's capital city, on Jan. 14. But the bigger the task, the greater the reward, says Sutherland.

"Their policing is different, they have a completely different set of circumstances" says Sutherland, who lives in South Surrey. "They're very interested in our ideas, they're open to our suggestions."

It's a gradual process that likely won't yield tangible results until long after his tour is over, says Sutherland. "Change is slow. Our achievements can't be measured right away, they'll take time."

But if there's one thing he's learned during his long career, and his previous international experience, it's patience.

"You have to have flexibility and not get frustrated," says Sutherland, who will be living in a UN compound during his Sudanese adventure. "You have to be able to cope in adverse situations."

The payoff is a better understanding of a different culture and the world in general, says Sutherland as he ponders retirement from policing after his tour concludes.

"It's a nice way to go in terms of giving back." 


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