Lew Dempsey

A bit of policing history in Sooke

Historian Elida Peers writes about the Sooke region's past

One of the last recruits into the BC Provincial Police before that venerable force was taken over by the RCMP in 1950, Lew Dempsey finished his distinguished career as an Inspector in the Nelson Subdivision in 1985.

In July 1993, when our new RCMP Detachment building was opened on Church Road under the tenure of Sergeant Wayne Watson, Lew and his wife Ioline were among the special guests from afar that gathered together to share reminiscences.  While the official ceremonies took place at the detachment in the afternoon, in the evening the Sooke Community Association hosted a salmon barbecue picnic at the Flats in true Sooke fashion. The camaraderie as members – retired and serving – shared tales around the campfire, was an event we may never see again.

Exemplifying the community feeling of policing in Sooke’s bygone days, the afternoon’s refreshments had been prepared by Sooke Women’s Institute, led by Flora Pinder and Sybil Banner, while the gift of a collage portraying all detachment commanders in the area’s history was presented by the Sooke Festival Society.

When Lew Dempsey was posted here as a Corporal in 1961, he was the lone force, his territory extending from the Colwood/Metchosin border, west to the San Juan valley.  It would be more correct to say that Lew and Ioline both served.  The couple and their two sons lived at Sooke’s first police station at Sooke Road and Drennan; Ioline looked after the office, took the calls and fed the prisoners.  Dick Herrling recalled “the Detachment consisted of one policeman who very soon earned the respect of the whole community with his fine police work.”

It was a shared sense of responsibility, perhaps bred into the generation that had grown up in the Depression years, that had Lew and Ioline working so closely together, and also dedicated to their family time. I recall one sunny winter Sunday, my family going up to skate on Sheilds Lake,  and running into the Dempseys who were roasting wieners with their boys in the beautiful winter setting. I recall Ioline telling me how she could not relax when Lew was out on call at night, and how she would take a blanket and lie on the kitchen floor to wait for him to come home safely.

When the Dempseys left Sooke in September 1967, the detachment had grown to three, and he had been promoted to Sergeant. In retirement after Nelson, the Dempseys lived at Balfour and then Castlegar.

Sooke’s Lorne Christensen, a dedicated police historian, said, “I first met Lew through a phone call while I was building a police exhibit at the museum in 2008.  He was extremely helpful with information and artifacts. I enjoyed talking to him so much that I never missed an opportunity to call him back. In 2010 while in the Kootenays, I visited him and found him to be exactly what I expected, a real gentleman, a wonderful host and I came away knowing he must have been an awesome police officer.”

Together as they had been throughout their lives, so they were at the end. When Lew passed away last Thursday, it was only hours later that Ioline went to join him.

Elida Peers, Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Candidate hopefuls emerge for upcoming Sooke byelection

Three former councillors considering run

Sooke cougar sighting unconfirmed

Boy had a close encounter with the big cat

Fairfield plan, council motion create ‘uncertainty’ for average reader: councillor

Public hearing on Victoria neighbourhood plan delayed until September

Live wire repairs result in unplanned outage for 4,400 BC Hydro customers Tuesday night

Equipment issues results in larger, unplanned outage for Saanich, Oak Bay residents

Esquimalt Ribfest in need of volunteers

The three-day festival is happening from Sept. 6 to 8

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman sentenced to life in prison

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

LETTER: A great asset to the community

Lorien Arnold worked tirelessly to help at the Scouts jamboree, reader writes.

‘Beyond the call’: Teen in police custody gets birthday surprise by B.C. Mountie

Unusual celebration started when Staff Sgt. Paul Vadik went to visit the teen in his Coquitlam cell

Thunderstorms forecast across B.C.

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for B.C.’s central Interior

Driver who killed B.C. motorcyclist receives absolute discharge

Chase family speechless following decision by BC Review Board

Lower gas prices slow annual inflation rate to Bank of Canada’s 2% bull’s-eye

Prices showed strength in other areas — led by a 17.3 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

B.C. moves to preserve 54 of its biggest, oldest trees

Fir, cedar, spruce, pine, yew set aside from logging

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Most Read