RCMP Sgt. Andrew Blackadar describes being 'elephant in the room'

Mountie ends challenging run as Prince Edward Island media relations officer before taking new post in Vancouver

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 2, 2014

RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler has taken over as media relations officer for P.E.I. -- a post held by Sgt. Andrew Blackadar for the past three years.

©Guardian photo

Sgt. Andrew Blackadar has taken on many different roles in his 25 years with the RCMP.

His most recent — a three-year post as media relations officer in Prince Edward Island — stands out for the manner in which the position has often isolated the sergeant from his colleagues.

While reporters were viewing Blackadar, 47, as the police, RCMP investigators saw him more as the media.

Often, the officers didn’t even want to talk to Blackadar, who has just wrapped up his run as media relations officer and is set to move to Vancouver with his family to work with the RCMP as a performance officer for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.

During the past three years, the sergeant would be routinely left out of police briefings on one case or another.

“For the first time in my career, I felt like I was the elephant in the room that nobody wanted to talk about and they didn’t want me there . . . but I understood where they were coming from having been an investigator but it still becomes very difficult if something is happening and I’ve got the media calling me and I haven’t been briefed about it,’’ he says.

“So I have to explain to the investigators the media know about it, they are going to print something.’’

The two murder cases during his three years as media relations officer were particularly challenging. He needed to be mindful of measuring what to report as well as when and how to provide the information to the media.

“And sometimes the media knows a lot of the information and they’re asking me to confirm it and some things I can’t confirm,’’ he explains.

“And a lot of times we have to give families time to grieve and reflect on maybe a tragedy, but they do understand that at the end of the day that we do have to report certain things and the family always wants us to get the story out there properly.’’

Blackadar never saw his role as a spin doctor or cheerleader for the RCMP. Rather, he simply worked to get stories out about police work, to inform the public on what was happening.

“I never saw my role as selling the RCMP,’’ he says.

“It was about telling the public about what they deserve to hear and working with the media to get those stories out.’’

Blackadar is pleased with the success he and the RCMP in general have had over the past few years in delivering a strong, consistent message on the dangers of drinking and driving.

“It has been very rewarding for me to see a decrease in the number of overall impaired drivers; however, there is still much work to be done to change the mindset of a few,’’ he says.

Blackadar also worked closely with a number of community groups, like the Victims Services Advisory Committee and the P.E.I. Partners for Community Safety, in an effort to make the province a safer place.

Originally from New Brunswick, Blackadar came to P.E.I. in 2007 after policing in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He worked in Montague for one and a half years before moving to the headquarters in Charlottetown as a police analyst.

In June 2011, he began his role of media relations officer for P.E.I. He hit the ground running with Will and Kate’s royal visit to the province.

“I was really thrown into it but I did get to meet a lot of media in a positive setting, got to know them and understand them; understand their needs and their wants,’’ he says.

“I was able to do interviews with media from around the world.’’

Now, Blackadar is excited about his upcoming transfer that will see him promoted to the rank of inspector. He will be part of a major unit comprised of 14 different police agencies working collectively to tackle gang related activity throughout British Columbia. His role is to balance the needs of all the forces.

“It’s going to be challenging to keep everybody on the same page and really satisfying everybody’s needs,’’ he says of a role that sounds rather familiar.

“But it’s going to be more frontline policing for me,’’ he adds.

Sgt. Leanne Butler assumed the role of media relations officer for P.E.I. in April.

Butler joined the RCMP in 1988 and was posted to her first detachment in Charlottetown. She has worked in the Charlottetown, Souris and Alberton detachments in general policing and frontline duties.