Brian Simpson jokes that the tree he guarded as a young Mountie during the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics is still there.
But when it comes to his role at the Vancouver Olympics, he’s all business.
Now an RCMP superintendent, Simpson is one of about two dozen Red Deer police officers headed for duty at the Olympics, which start on Friday.
The Red Deer representation, which also includes at least one Central Alberta Sheriff’s Department officer, will join an estimated 15,000 police, private security and military personnel as part of an extensive security effort expected to cost nearly $1 billion.
Simpson is playing a key part in the Olympics as a member of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit.
He is part of the gold chain of command, the highest of three commander levels.
Bronze commanders are responsible for security at sporting and non-sporting venues. Silver commanders take care of one of two area commands, Metro Vancouver or Mountain (Whistler).
Gold commanders, all of whom are RCMP members, are responsible for running the theatre command centre, which pulls in information from the various area commands and specialized commands like air and marine.
The majority of Red Deer officers left for the West Coast in late January and won’t return until late February or early March.
Security is also being provided for the Winter Para Olympics, which immediately follow the Olympics.
Simpson said police services will be maintained in the city despite the loss of about one-fifth of the total 125 members in Red Deer. He said no officers in the city will be on vacation or off on training.
“Normally we have about 15 officers away training or on leave at any one time,” he said.
He said large police resources have been used in other major events.
“We have resources identified in case there’s a major problem to bring in people (to the city or region) from a particular detachment.”
“It’s been well thought through and there is resources available.”
“I’m comfortable that in the short term it won’t be an issue,” Simpson added.
The Red Deer contingent will see their wages paid by the Olympics budget.
“There will be actual savings to the City of Red Deer,” Simpson said.
Alberta’s K-Division headquarters is sending 600 RCMP from around Alberta.
Simpson will be stationed at the command centre but several officers will be headquartered on one of two cruise ships docked in Vancouver while others will be stationed at the alpine events set for Whistler.
One of those Whistler Mounties is Const. Mitch Rowland and the Central Alberta Emergency Response Team (ERT).
A communication’s specialist with the ERT squad, Rowland said he’s eagerly looking forward to the Games.
“It’s going to be very interesting and when you can expand your police knowledge by sharing and learning from others, it’s always a benefit to your job,” said the 10-year member of the force.
The temporary loss of the ERT unit means ERT squads from other parts of Alberta will cover Central Alberta.
Const. Lance Chalmers is the lone Central Alberta sheriff headed to the Games.
Chalmers, who has been a sheriff for five years, said he will be stationed at the short track speedskating venue.
“I’m very much looking forward to it.
“It’s a chance to experience an entirely new work environment as part of the largest security force ever seen in this country,” Chalmers said.
The Alberta Sheriffs Department is sending 25 members or about 20 per cent of its total provincial force.
Simpson has experience in dealing with major incidents, including the shooting of two Mounties near Spiritwood, Sask., in 2006.
Olympic security co-ordinator Ward Elnock said recently Canadian authorities have built a security plan “around the worst possible threat” — a terrorist attack.
The Olympics haven’t been a target for violence since the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, when a pipe bomb killed two people in a downtown park.