By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Eric Dudley worked a beat for the New Westminster Police Department as a constable, acting sergeant and acting corporal over a span of 29 years that he fondly remembers began on May 1, 1967.
“I was a police officer in England for three and a half years before coming to Canada in 1966,” Eric says. “Jobs were tough to come by back then. I got hired as a swamper on a kitchen cabinet delivery truck making $1.25 an hour before I landed work as a guard at the old Oakalla Prison Farm in Burnaby. I thank my lucky stars it was only about six months later when I became a New Westminster cop.”
Born in the tiny industrial town of Widnes, England, between Liverpool and Manchester, Dudley left the family home in his early 20’s to seek new adventures on Canadian soil.
Now in his 18th year working as a security guard at Hastings Racecourse, Eric can joke that every day has, indeed, been adventurous where his beat now involves patrolling the grandstand area, Racebook wagering floor and winner’s circle.
“My job is to talk nicely to the customers, help them when I can and make sure everyone feels safe,” he says.
Never did he talk so nicely – and quickly – as the day in 2013 when a distraught patron found his way to the rooftop of Hastings Racecourse. With two hands and a knee on the railing overlooking the tarmac at track level, he was threatening to jump.
Dudley had been hot on the guy’s trail and convinced him that an earlier argument with his girlfriend wasn’t worth ending his life.
The following December Dudley was presented with a coveted GEM Award from Hastings management and at a luncheon in March, 2014 he received an Award of Merit from Hastings Racecourse parent company Great Canadian Gaming Corporation.
“Looking back, I have to believe my previous experience as a police officer helped me encourage the man to back away from that railing,” Eric says. “It was a close call.”