To the residents of Loon Bay, Newfoundland, Mike Elliott is Santa Claus.
Mike was still in high school when he was asked to dress up as Santa for the annual Christmas Parade.
“I rode on the back of a fire truck from one side of town to the other,” he recalls.
He handed out gifts to the kids, and delivered fruit baskets to the elderly.
For 12 years, no matter where he was – at university, or serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force – Mike would return to Loon Bay to play Santa.
“Growing up in Loon Bay taught me the value of helping others, of helping others and the community.”
Mike passed on the responsibility of being Santa when he moved across the country to Edmonton, and joined the Edmonton Police Service.
“People often ask when I am coming back. They say “Santa” hasn’t been the same since I left. I really took it to heart.”
After graduating from Recruit Training Class #105, Mike spent four years as a constable in Downtown Division, the Service’s busiest and roughest district.
“I lived downtown, and I worked downtown,” he says. “I was always dealing with people who had criminal records. It got to the point that I started to look at everyone as if they were criminals.”
Mike’s sergeant took him aside one day and told him “it was time for a change.”
Mike transferred to Southwest Division. He now found he had more time to investigate calls, to interact with community members, and find solutions to their problems.
“Working in Southwest taught me empathy. Now, I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes.”
One of his proudest accomplishments was closing down a notorious motel that racked up more than 600 calls for service in a five month period. “It was ridiculous,” he says. “It was tearing the community apart.”
Mike worked with partner agencies, including Capital Health and the City of Edmonton, to shut the motel down after the owners refused to cooperate with police.
“Calls for service in the area have fallen dramatically,” he says.
Recently promoted to the rank of detective, Mike still finds time to volunteer as a director with the Edmonton Police Association, and to act as the secretary for the Alberta Federation of Police Associations.
Loon Bay is a long way from Edmonton, but the lessons Mike learned growing up there continue to resonate in his policing career:
“I always ask myself, how would I handle things if I were back home? Would I be apathetic and irritated? Or would I be understanding and tolerant?”
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