Part 2: VPD Inspector Colleen Yee – Making an Impact for 27 Years & Counting – Vancouver Police Foundation
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Part 2: VPD Inspector Colleen Yee – Making an Impact for 27 Years & Counting

Last week we shared the moving story of how VPD Inspector Colleen Yee was inspired to become a police officer. Her innate instinct to be a protective presence in all aspects of her life led Colleen to a career in law enforcement where she could also protect ‘her Vancouver’. This week we take a closer look at how her 27 years on the job has evolved with incredible accomplishments in nearly every section within the VPD. Next month we will also explore the thousands of volunteer hours she has dedicated to the Women’s Personal Safety Team, which she co-founded in 2012 with financial support from the Vancouver Police Foundation.

Starting back in the early 90s, Colleen worked in District 4 – VPD’s largest of the patrol districts that stretches south from Marpole/South Cambie and North to Kerrisdale. She worked very closely with hard-working officers and wonderful mentors.

As a junior officer in D4, Colleen was involved in her only two shootings while on the job. The scariest was a drug-related robbery where she helped stop the getaway car and the suspect immediately opened fire on Colleen and the other officers at the scene. The suspect used his get-away driver’s child as a human shield as he exited the car while firing at the members. “When the first shooting occurred my thought process immediately turned to ‘here we go – this is what I was trained to encounter, I am ready’. That whole event from beginning to end only lasted six minutes but when you experienced it, it felt like a half hour.” Fortunately, nobody was hurt in either incident.

After a couple of years in District 4, Colleen transferred to District 2 – which included the Downtown East Side where she worked with her partner for seven years. They walked the beat, they worked plainclothes and strove very hard to make neighborhoods safe for families to live again.  What some people might find difficult to understand, Colleen – like many VPD officers who patrol that neighbourhood – fell in love with that District.

 

 

“I love the people in this community and I got to know many of them very well,” explains Colleen. “As marginalized as the people were, they were so real there. There was no pretense about who they were, what they were going through. They were genuine. My partner and I would bring the residents small treats on their birthdays. We would visit them in the hospital if they were ever sick or injured. Because if we didn’t do these things, who would?  Many of them had no one. We wanted them to know that they mattered to us.”

Colleen was trained and participated in many different investigative projects, nationally and internationally as an undercover operative.  During this period she acquired significant knowledge that made her a subject matter expert in many fields including drugs.  In the late 90s, chemical/party drugs were gaining popularity and she worked extensively in this field. Due to her experience and expertise, Colleen was seconded to the RCMP as the GVRD Drug Awareness Coordinator. She and her RCMP partner became the experts on rave drugs for British Columbia and also across Canada which then led her back to the VPD as detective in the Drug unit.

Following her successful stint as a drug investigator, Colleen became a Detective in the Sex Crimes & Child Abuse section. “That was a very challenging post for me, but it was also very rewarding,” says Colleen. “I investigated significant serial sex-offender files where we were able to identify historical sex assaults through DNA testing and improved technology.”

“We were able to bring peace and closure to a lot of victims and their families while holding offenders accountable.”

Over the next several years Colleen would be promoted to Sergeant, leading a patrol team back in D2, then she became the Aide to the Deputy Chief of Operations, and then recruited to the VPD’s Planning, Research & Audit Section after doing a stint in the Professional Standards Section. It was there that she had the opportunity to develop the incredibly popular and impactful Women’s Personal Safety Team (WPST). She was then promoted to Staff Sergeant and seconded once again – this time to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit British Columbia (CFSEUBC) where she led the largest surveillance team in the province.  She had the opportunity to work some of the most dangerous files at a time when gang related violence was plaguing the province and Canada.

When she returned to the VPD this time, she was promoted to Inspector and her first assignment was back on patrol in Operations as Duty Officer (four senior officers share this incredible responsibility; rotating shifts to ensure the city is covered 24/7/365). Her role was to look after the entire city ensuring members on the road had proper resourcing and to make critical decisions in high-risk calls.  Shortly thereafter, she led the VPD’s Community Outreach Services Section which gave her an opportunity to work with a number of important community partners, agencies and hundreds of civilian volunteers. Then, fittingly, she provided exceptional leadership to the Youth Services Sections for 2 years. After a short stint overseeing the VPD Jail, she landed her current role looking after the VPD’s Training and Recruiting Section.

Despite her previous experience investigating child abuse, sex crimes, violent gang and drug cases, it was actually as the Inspector overseeing the Youth Services Section that she faced her most difficult experience on the job.

“Without a doubt, one of the most heart-breaking moments of my career was when the School Liaison Program was cancelled by the VSB after 50 years of supporting youth. It is still hard for me to talk about. I saw and experienced first-hand the good that these police officers did with these youth in our community. The positive connections and relationships that were built. The mentorship that was provided to the kids that put them on a better path to success. The trusted figure they could go to in the school when there was no other trusted adult they could turn to in their life. To have that not recognized and valued is heart-breaking.”

When you’re on the job for nearly three decades like Colleen, you are exposed to almost endless opportunities for growth and success. As she would put it, “there are so many amazing careers within this career.” Luckily, for the city of Vancouver, Colleen has dedicated all of her ‘careers within a career’ to making Vancouver a better, safer city for everyone.

 


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