Langley’s top cop heading for new post in Jerusalem

It’s a long way from the green and pleasant land of Langley to modern Jerusalem, but it’s a journey one of Langley’s top RCMP officers will make next month.

Supt. Derek Cooke, since 2009 the officer in charge of the local Mounties, is taking up an international challenge.

The RCMP undertakes a number of missions overseas as part of UN groups, humanitarian missions, or to train new police forces.

“I’ve always thought that it would be a tremendous experience to be involved with one of those before I retire,” Cooke told the Langley Advance.

However, he joked that he’s a bit of a “princess,” who likes hot food and showers, and isn’t too fond of dealing with spiders in a tent. So he was reluctant to take on a peacekeeping mission in a developing part of the world.

Then an opportunity came up to work in Israel and the Palestinian territories, based out of Jerusalem.

It was a developed part of the world with an amazing history and cultures.

However, due to the periodic violence in parts of the country, there was some hesitation on Cooke’s part.

“There was a lot of soul searching involved,” he said.

That was last winter, when he applied for the new position after talking things over with his wife and daughters.

Now he’s glued to CNN and other news channels as one of the worst spates of violence in years grips Israel and the the Palestinian Territory. Hamas has been launching rockets into Israel, causing few casualties but much panic. In response, the Israeli military has been attacking the homes of suspected Hamas members or their launch sites in Gaza. As of mid-week, 207 Palestinians had been killed and one Israeli had died.

The violence hasn’t affected his decision to go, but Cooke’s family isn’t likely to come for a visit unless things quiet down and return to the local version of “normal,” he said.

Jerusalem itself, where he’ll be based, is a relatively safe zone. As with any region seeing crime or violence, there are usually safer areas, Cooke noted.

Cooke won’t be involved with any kind of military or directly diplomatic efforts.

He will be the lone RCMP representative on Operation Proteus, a Canadian Armed Forces mission that is working with the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) in Jerusalem.

Proteus and the USSC are working to support the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, the police within Gaza and the West Bank.

“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity,” said Cooke.

Cooke will be working with Canadian diplomats as well as the Palestinian police. He’ll be advising his Palestinian counterparts and will be helping them build up their capacity, offering any advice that will help them  create a modern police force with a solid basis in human rights and up to date techniques.

One of the past projects of the Canadian government has been to establish a crime lab in the Palestinian Authority, Cooke noted.

Even when countries are in a state of war, they have to deal with all the normal policing problems of any society – theft, fraud, domestic violence, and other issues.

Cooke said he won’t be there to dictate how things should be run, but simply to offer advice and expertise where it is most helpful.

He notes on an issue like domestic violence, over the past decade the RCMP has done a lot of work to improve how it deals with that issue. If asked, he can help.

The mission will be a plainclothes and unarmed position for the RCMP officer.

Cooke is already halfway to his deployment, as he’s in an intensive training session in Ottawa.

“A lot of cultural training,” he said of what he’s going through. He’s learning how to interact in what will be his home for the next year.

“Certainly I’m hoping to pick up a bit of Arabic,” Cooke said, but he simply doesn’t have enough time to do a crash course and become anywhere near fluent in the language. He’ll have translators to work with in the West Bank.

He’s also studying a lot of procedures and policies, and brushing up on his emergency medical training.

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