Commissionaires: Constant evolution
Western Sentinel, by LCOL (RET'D) John Slater
"I needed the camaraderie, to not lose what I did for 35 years. The military was a big part of my life, so I wanted to be surrounded by guys that have similar interests and backgrounds,” said Commissionaire Floyd Murrin. He is a Detachment Commander at the Detainee Management Unit (DMU) in the downtown Edmonton Police Services (EPS) headquarters.
Murrin oversees 16 Commissionaires, each one employed as a Community Peace Officer (CPO) working at the DMU. They assist EPS members by processing people who are arrested and lodged for up to 24 hours at the downtown facility.
“We are hands on, so we do physical searches of every detainee or arrested person that comes in,” Murrin explained. “We are very active and proactive.” Last year his busy team searched and processed more than 17,000 detainees. He emphasized that the CPOs partners with EPS members “to make sure everybody in the area is safe.”
Murrin started at the DMU approximately 18 months ago, shortly after joining the Corps of Commissionaires. Prior to that, he served as a Military Police officer and retired in 2007 at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. “Some guys transitions well, and others do not. I was one of those who did not transition well. I couldn’t grasp being a civilian and I will be the first one to admit it,” said Murrin.
During his military career, he was posted to bases spanning across Canada from Comox, BC to Greenwood, NS. He served in Europe during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and did tours in Cyprus and South Africa. Murrin also served as Security Manager for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“And then finally it was time to move on. I thought ‘What do I want to do?’ Where was I going to find that friendship and people who knew my background or had similar backgrounds,” said Murrin. “Well, the light went on: Corps of Commissionaires,” he laughed. “We all have something in common, we’ve all done tours of duty overseas, we’ve all been to different countries and we’ve done different things.”
The leadership skills Murrin applied in his military career served him well, and he adapted quickly to working in the structured environment at EPS headquarters. Even so, it wasn’t easy making the switch to civilian life after serving with the forces for more than three decades.
He developed new skills on managing civilians, and noticed a change of culture. “I had to learn how to be a manager more than an authoritative leader,” Murrin said. “You need to manager people versus tell them what to do, and you have to ask them.”
Jeff McIntyre is another veteran working at the downtown EPS headquarters. He joined the Commissionaires five years ago, and is now the Detachment Commander responsible for more than 70 commissionaires and CPOs. McIntyre retired at the rank of Sergeant after serving 22 years with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Canadian Airborne Regiment.
“I totally enjoyed my career and unfortunately it was cut short and I was released medically [in 2002] because of my injuries,’ said McIntyre, adding that he served in Germany, Cyprus, Croatia and Bosnia.
As Detachment Commander, McIntyre said he adapts his leadership style to various situations based on the mixture of commissionaires who at the site are civilians or former military members.
“With my veterans I can slip into my old leadership style as a senior NCO and tell them we need to get something done,” he said. “When I deal with my non-veterans I’m no longer the crusty old Sergeant, I’ve become a manager. So I have to approach them a little more differently and ask them to help me. But the end result is always the same; we always get the job done.”
After leaving the forces, he was concerned about what to do. “There’s no requirement for mortar men, machine gunners or snipers on Civvy street,” said McIntyre. “I spent my entire life in the military, and when I was released it was like what am I going to do now?” He was amazed at how quickly civilian employers, including Commissionaires, were willing to hire veterans.
Established in Canada in 1925, the mandate of the Corps of Commissionaires is to provided employment opportunities for veterans. They also accept former RCMP members and others who wish to contribute to Canada’s security. The organization is a federation of 15 independent not-for-profit with 20,000 employees from Coast to Coast. The Northern Alberta Division is headquartered in Edmonton, and it employs about 1,800 commissionaires from Ponoka, Alberta to Iqaluit, Nunavut. There are also veterans supporting the Military Police and other groups at Edmonton Garrison and CFB Wainwright.
The Corps has expanded to include government, law enforcement, oil and gas, utilities, industrial and high end property management clients. But they decline work in shopping malls, grocery or liquor stores, banks, rock concerts or demolition sites. Instead they let security guard companies do those types of jobs.
The Commissionaires focus on looking after their people – not making profits for owners or shareholders. That is why they can afford to train, administer and lead commissionaires to set them up for success as they work for quality clients. It’s also one of the reasons why commissionaires are paid higher as compared to security guard companies. They leverage the experience of those with military and police backgrounds while nurturing a culture veterans find both familiar and comfortable.
“Those who are transitioning or are injured, we have a job for you,” said Murrin. “You have a lot of specific skills and assets that the Corps is looking for, so if you’re thinking about joining and are looking for camaraderie, then talk to a commissionaire.’