Tim Popp’s career has brought him a number of places, but he said he loves the Battlefords, even though it isn’t the Yukon.
Popp was born in Clinton, Ont., and his dad was in the air force. The family moved a lot, until eventually they went to the Yukon.
Popp said he calls the Yukon home because he spent most of his early life that he can remember there.
Popp was involved with cubs, scouts and army cadets, and later the army. When the time came to decide what to do with his life, he asked his dad about going into the plumbing and heating business with him.
According to Popp his dad said, “You should try something different because it’s hard work, and you deserve better.’”
College in Alberta for surveying was next, and Popp received a diploma. He said he would go to the Yukon every summer and survey mining claims and roads and other things for the territorial government.
“That was fine, but it was seasonal work and you live out of a duffel bag,” Popp said. “You’re on the road six, seven days out of the week.”
But the money was good and carried him through the school year.
Popp said he graduated from technical college and attended the University of Calgary for a surveying degree. He said it was difficult.
“Some people can do it and some people can’t,” Popp said. “I didn’t do so well.”
The mounted police was an option that offered good paying money.
Popp said he continued to go to school, but switched from engineering to criminology, and received better grades. Popp graduated in the spring of 1988, and police in Whitehorse allowed him to be a summer student. Duties included riding with members, helping with calls, and working front-of-counter.
Popp went back to the Yukon for some time, and then went to a posting in Nipawin. He said he spent five and a half years there, and then came to the Battlefords in 1994. He met his wife and got married.
Some time in Unity came next, until he came back to the Battlefords. He was later promoted to corporal and retired in 2014.
Popp said he spent seven years as a corporal in the Battlefords.
Popp said his army time gave him perks over the years, such as extra time off that other police officers didn’t receive, and a 30-year pension.
“Why wouldn’t you take advantage of a system like that?” Popp said.
Popp continues to work for the mounted police as a reserve constable. Duties include driving prisoners around, and working in composite sketch.
Composite sketches are based on accounts of suspects. Some sketchers make free-hand drawings. Popp does his work on a computer.
“You have a computer screen and a program comes up and you have all the icons: glasses, hair shape, hats, chin shapes, head shapes, noses, eyes, but all black and white,” Popp said.
The generated images are front facing (with no profiles), and they also don’t feature teeth.
Composite sketch can now involve creating skulls and using modeling clay.
In addition to working occasionally for the RCMP, Popp is involved in a number of other things. He has many history books and reads on topics including Canadian military and police history. Popp is interested in topics relating to the Yukon, and recently published an article in the Northern Review about military badges associated with Yukon military units.
Popp said his dad had brothers in the air force and they gave Popp medals, and he started collecting them.
Popp said he carried the 2010 Olympic torch in Lashburn and in Marshall and Popp met an old friend who was acting as security. Popp knew him as a student in Whitehorse.
In addition to the 2010 Olympics, Popp volunteered in the 1988 Olympics, and said he thinks he’ll volunteer for a third if another is hosted in Canada.
Popp said he could have gone north for work, but stayed in the Battlefords area because of family.
“Rank didn’t mean anything to me, I just wanted to do a good job,” he said. “I loved the community.”
Family was also important when he was a corporal.
“I sat down with each one of [my guys] individually and asked ‘what do you want to do with your career?’” Popp said. “I said ‘one last thing, family is number one. So you make sure when you come to work you’re ready to work. If there are any issues or problems at home you tell me, and we’ll get that sorted out. Then you come back to work.’”
Popp told a story of a child who died violently. A policeman Popp was responsible for was about to go o the scene, but his wife just had a baby. Popp told the officer not to go, and went instead.
“When I retired, he even brought that up,” Popp said.
Popp even took the adjustable-size coffin for infants in the back seat of his car and drove it to the family.
“You gotta do what you gotta do,” Popp said.
When asked about the changes in crime in the Battlefords over the years, Popp said, “I think it’s the same.”
“We had violent stuff back in ‘94,” Popp said. “There was a murder near Cando, two blatant murders right there. We’ve had intoxicated people, we’ve had domestic [violence], we’ve had lost kids. It’s still here as it was back then.”
“Maybe there’s more of it, maybe there’s less of it,” he said.
Ways of reporting statistics have changed, but on-the-street police officers aren’t always dealing with the large scope of statistics, but rather respond to call after call.
“You just know that you come to work, you have eight, ten, twelve hours to work, you do it, you do your files,” Popp said, adding supervisors have other duties.
Differences compared to when Popp first arrived in the Battlefords include more manpower and more cells now.
Readily available cameras on cell phones have also changed the policing profession, Popp said.
“With the advent of cellphones, everyone wants to record everything,” Popp said.
“Now in this day and age, as a policeman, you have to be always cognizant that you’re being video recorded every day of your career until you retire. Even when you’re out coaching kids in hockey or going to a meeting for Toastmasters,” he said.
Yet situations can go awry, Popp said, with both police and offenders.
In one situation, Popp said he responded to someone being drunk and disorderly. A woman said he couldn’t arrest the drunk and disorderly man and blew smoke in Popp’s face. She was also drunk and Popp said he put her under arrest.
“I always tried to treat people the way I wanted to be treated,” Popp said. In some situations, “it comes to a point where that breaks down and the person is violent, and you have to use force to a certain degree.”
Referring to police, he said, “We’re human too.”
Popp said he “wasn’t really impressed” by the W5 documentary Crimetown, adding many retired police officers, doctors, lawyers and judges retire in the Battlefords.
“If it was such a bad place, they wouldn’t be retired here,” Popp said.
Popp is also involved with the Battleford Legion, and has been with the Legion since 1980, he said.
He is also involved with the Royal Canadian Humane Association, which awards Canadians for acts of bravery. Popp scans the news and does work to award worthy individuals. Popp recently received a Silver Medal for Meritorious Service, presented by Lieutenant Governor W. Thomas Molloy. Popp has been involved with the Royal Canadian Humane Association since 2003.
Now, Popp is retired, but not quite.
“My wife and I are busy every day,” Popp said. “Now that we’re retired, it’s the stuff we do every day when we weren’t retired.”