"When they say it happens in a flash - it does," reflected Corporal Shawn Tarnick who is marking a 20 year career with the Altona Police Service (APS). "It seems like just yesterday that I was wet behind the ears and pulling in to this parking lot for the first time."
Looking to fulfill a desire to serve the public, Tarnick says he first got a taste for police work while volunteering with the local fire department back in 1994.
"During that time I worked alongside the police service and I thought this is neat, I think could do something like this full time and serve the community that I've grown to love," he explained.
That opportunity presented itself in 1998 when Tarnick became an auxiliary officer with APS, and a year-and-a-half later, in July 2000, was hired on full time as a constable. He graduated from the Brandon Police Recruit Class in December of that year.
Since then, Tarnick has successfully completed several career courses such as Basic Firearms Instructor, Scenes of Crimes Officer, Major Sex Crimes Investigator, Police Supervisor Training, Fire Scene Investigator and various impaired by drug and or alcohol related courses, to name a few.
As well, he has been involved in countless day-to-day files and has been asked to take the lead in many of the agency's very serious files, clearing most of them.
In 2015, he was promoted to Corporal and boosted to a middle-management position within the department.
When asked if there are any distinct moments that stick out for him over his 20 year career, Tarnick explained that the things he's seen aren't necessarily items of conversation and says the reward comes when you get to be part of something and see a reasonable outcome.
"And being there for people when they need you," added Tarnick, which he says is tough because most people see police officers in a negative light and as someone who gave them a ticket or laid charges against them. "When you do this long enough, in order to survive you have to have those good moments where you were a part of something and made someone's life better," he noted.
Police chief, Perry Batchelor, says Tarnick has hit a significant milestone, noting sadly not everyone who enters policing lasts this long. He adds, the job is made that much more difficult for officers like Tarnick who work in the town they grew up in.
"It's a real balancing act," he said, adding sometimes people hope their past good experiences with you will help get them out of a ticket or other trouble. "Unfortunately, you still blew that stop sign...and the fact is that we do have a job to do...so I truly congratulate Corporal Tarnick on the twenty-year milestone and I look forward to working with him for many more years."
Tarnick admits serving the community he grew up in has had its hurdles but he believes that if you're a professional and doing what you love, those struggles are short-lived.
Tarnick's two decades of service has helped contribute to the nearly 70 years of experience among the department's senior officers and Chief Batchelor hopes this dedication resonates with the younger members on the team - that Altona is a great community to work in, raise a family and eventually retire.