Joel Whittaker joined the Edmonton Police Service on March 17, 1986.
He was nineteen.
“I submitted my application as soon as I graduated from high school,” he says.
His timing coincided with the end of a four year hiring freeze at the EPS.
“I was one of twenty-six people accepted into Recruit Training Class #86. It was a great honour. I knew I was very lucky.”
Nine months later, Whittaker was sent to West Division, where he would spend three years learning policing from the ground up.
In 1990, a posting for the Service’s elite Tactical unit caught Whittaker’s attention. “It was one of the biggest challenges of my career,” he says.
Qualifying officers had to participate in a gruelling “run-off”. “They really pushed us, mentally and physically.”
It was tough, but the twenty three-year old Whittaker succeeded, becoming the youngest police officer in the Service’s history to join Tactical.
“Tactical is where I really learned the value of team work,” he says. “You can’t do it by yourself. You need to rely on your team members.”
Whittaker’s specialty was close protection work. “I was a bodyguard for dignitaries who visited Edmonton.”
With special fondness, he recalls protecting former president George Bush (Senior). Whittaker worked alongside Secret Service agents and members of the RCMP during Bush’s stay in the city. “He was really down to earth. A real kidder behind closed doors.”
Whittaker followed up his time in Tactical with stints in the Cultural Resources Unit, Court Liaison, and Downtown Division. Each new posting gave him the opportunity to enhance his knowledge of policing and the justice system.
Today, Whittaker puts that extensive knowledge to use as one of four Duty Officers responsible for overseeing frontline police operations in Edmonton. He sees his new role as “the final exam” for everything he has learned and done in a career that spans more than a quarter of a century.
“I’m proud and happy to have worked all of the places I have. This is a very rewarding job.”