New Staff Sergeant Paul Thalhofer has not been in town long, but he is already making marks.
Skid marks on the pavement that is.
The 53-year-old RCMP officer volunteered to show some Grade 11 Physics students the real-world application of what might seem like dry formulas recently.
Thalhofer is a high level accident investigator, and helped members of Julie Macdonald’s Physics 11 class during their dynamics unit. The class learned how to calculate a vehicle’s speed at an accident scene using the force of friction on the surface at the scene.
“It’s nice for the kids to get out and do something hands-on,” said Macdonald.
Thalhofer has been with the RCMP for 22 years and started his career with the force in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
He was sent from there to a lonely fly-in posting in Whati, Northwest Territories, where he was the sole officer posted there and he had no radio contact with other officers.
Instead, when Thalhofer went out on a call, his wife would monitor the radio for him while he was out.
What was supposed to be only a one year posting instead turned into 20 months, and then he and his wife moved to New Aiyansh, a small First Nations community north of Terrace, B.C..
The couple lived there on the reserve.
“It was great, one of my better postings,” recalled Thalhofer.
The couple then moved all the way south to Fernie, B.C. to allow their daughter to enjoy more opportunities but decided the south wasn’t really for them.
“That was some great skiing,” he said, when recalling what they appreciated about the area.
So the family once again headed north, this time to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where Thalhofer got to become involved in the accident investigation techniques and had the opportunity to take the advanced courses.
The accident investigation work was a high point in his career, and he said he enjoyed the puzzle of each investigation and being able to provide some amount of closure for families looking for answers.
Thalhofer himself knows how important the closure can be.
His mother and his nephew were killed in a car crash in Vernon two years ago, and so he was on the receiving end of the information gained through the investigation, and it helped.
“Having the background I have and going out and talking to the investigators, it does provide closure, definitely,” said Thalhofer.
His first promotional posting was to Old Crow, a remote fly-in posting in the Yukon Territory where he was a corporal and commander of the detachment.
“I’d said I’d never do another fly-in, but ah, Old Crow was pretty good, it was nice,” said Thalhofer.
He then went to Whitecourt, Alberta for a year and then went on to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.
But here in the Fort he is not only in charge of a much larger detachment, but he also can focus more on the hands-on aspects of management.
“This is like a dream here,” explained Thalhofer, with an administrative staff of four, and other support staff, it is a big step up from one clerk to help with the paperwork.
It’s also nice to be back in an area he’s familiar with.
Before joining the RCMP, Thalhofer lived in Vanderhoof, his daughter was even born there.
He used to work at the commercial vehicle scales in Vanderhoof, and he likes the area.
With the commercial scales, he and his wife had lived in Valemount, Tijan Cache, Vanderhoof and Williams Lake.
“Good thing my wife likes moving,” said Thalhofer.
The posting in the Fort is a minimum of four years, and Thalhofer and his wife have bought a house in the community. Owning his own home is something he hasn’t done in awhile, usually staying in staff housing in many communities, and he’s enjoying being a homeowner again.
He said he is also enjoying getting to know the community. He recalled a story from having coffee in the Red Fox Bistro recently, where a community-member came up and told him about an RCMP member who he saw helping someone back up a trailer.
The community-member then told Thalhofer “those things like that don’t go unnoticed, people appreciate it.”
Thalhofer credited the detachment members with making him look good, and remarked how important it is for the community to feel comfortable with the RCMP, and be able to come forward with concerns or when they have issues.
Thalhofer will be working on building this trust in Fort St. James for the years to come.
While his wife doesn’t mind moving, he said for himself, he is a bit tired of it and wouldn’t mind settling down for a bit.
“I’m happy doing what I’m doing right now,” said Thalhofer, who is also an avid fisherman looking forward to getting out on the lake.