Wednesday, 5 February 2014

NATIVE SON: Jamaican-Canadian stalwart Devon Clunis on reconnecting with his roots

AT YOUR SERVICE: "It's significant. But you get to change entire paradigms," says Clunis of his job as a top cop.

Long before his folks whisked him off to North America to make life in Our Lady of Snow, Devon Clunis was a bright, well-rounded chap from Harmony Vale, St. Ann, with a zeal for knowledge and a taste for adventure, twin passions that helped to catapult him into the ranks of the protective services. Decades later, now a veteran officer and family man, Clunis has risen to take his place as Chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, a post he admits is not without its weighty challenges but is one that allows him to indulge in what he prizes above all: making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Clunis, of slender built and exuding the calm demeanour befitting a stalwart lawman, is currently in the island on a working vacay, visiting his old stomping grounds but also scheduled to address a UWI Mona gathering to share his story at a public lecture dubbed "From Harmony Vale to Winnipeg: One Jamaican-Canadian's Story"). That's where we caught up with him on Tuesday to hear about his sojourn abroad and coming home again:

TALLAWAH: Welcome home. What's it like being back on Jamaican soil? 
Clunis: It's very emotional being back. You just feel that incredible sense of connection. I just feel so comfortable being here. This is where I'm supposed to be, so I was immediately reconnected to my roots, especially going back to Harmony Vale.

Are any of your relatives still there?
I have extended family in Harmony Vale still. I went back to the house where I grew up, where my grandparents were buried. Seeing their graves and all of that. It was just wonderful to visit there after so long.

What do you miss most about Jamaica when you're away? 
The heat. It's very easy to say that (Laughs). In terms of food, I have my mother who cooks all of that. But what I miss most is the warmth and just the people. In Winnipeg, we're the minority. Here, it's just this connection. Walking around and seeing all these people smiling, you feel very much at home.

You and your wife have been together some 22 years. What's the high point of marriage in your experience? 
The best thing is that I don't think I would have been able to have that steady pace to achieve what I have without my wife. No doubt. That incredible stability, somebody you can just share all the struggles with because it was not easy to have achieved that [police chief] position. And daily it's still a struggle because of what you have to deal with, some truly difficult situations.

So how do you unwind? What captures your interests?
In my younger days it was basketball and tennis, but now that I've gotten a little bit older, I love golf. Golf just lets me forget about everything else. And, of course, reading. I used to read and write a lot growing up. And I still enjoy doing that.

Interesting. What have you read lately? 
On the way actually, on the plane flight here, I almost read an entire book: David and Goliath.

Yes! I almost read the entire book on the flight. That's the type of book I like. In the course of our duties [as policemen], there's a lot of reading, but that's not so much for enjoyment.

Chief of the Winnipeg Police is an enormous job.
Exactly. It's significant. But you get to actually change entire paradigms in the way that we police and impact the community. And that's what I enjoy about the job.

Do you have any advice for Jamaica's future movers and shakers?
Pursue what you love first and then look at what happens. That's the first thing I would say. Find out what you're passionate about. And that's why I'm back here. I'm passionate about kids and any opportunity I get to encourage them I take it. And that's why I went into police work, and that's what I continue to do. Find out what your passion is.

You just turned 50 last year. How do you feel about heading into the advancing years of your life?
I always look back on each year, and as long as I am progressing, I enjoy the process of aging because I am moving forward. I am making a difference. And as long as I am living out my purpose, I enjoy it.

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