P.E.I. RCMP officer returns to Middle East assignment

Middle East USA World

As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions begin to ease in Israel, RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler has returned to the country to complete an assignment that has her working with police in the Palestinian territories.

It was originally supposed to be a one-year assignment that started in October of 2019, an opportunity Butler grabbed following a previous international posting.

“In 2002, I did an international mission in Kosovo and it was probably one of the highlights of my career, meeting people from all over, different countries,” she said.

“Policing and working in that international venue really made me want to do another one before I retired.”

The new post was being seconded to the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS), advising local police on domestic violence and gender-based violence issues.

Long trip home

But Butler’s one-year assignment was interrupted by the pandemic.

On March 22, everyone on the EU mission was ordered back to their home countries — and that turned into an epic journey for Butler.

“I had seven plane cancellations, and I got to Newark and then had to find another flight, [and] finally got a flight to Halifax.”

When she landed in Nova Scotia, there were no available seats on flights to Charlottetown for a couple of weeks. “And so I rented a car and I drove home. And it was the first day of the checkpoints in P.E.I. I went through the checkpoint and into quarantine for 14 days.”

Once safely back on P.E.I., Butler resumed her work for the police mission.

“I’ve still been working with the mission, but everything is remote on Zoom,” she said. “We took laptops home and we’ve been working from home in our respective countries.”

Finishing in Ramallah

It wasn’t the same as being there, though, and Butler is pleased now to be back in Ramallah, working in person with police officers there.

Sgt. Leanne Butler (right) at work in Ramallah just after arriving there to start her secondment in the fall of 2019. (EUPOL COPPS)

On Monday, Butler landed at Tel Aviv Airport on a special military flight, because the airport is still closed to commercial flights. Pandemic restrictions are still relatively tight in the country despite an intensive vaccination campaign, she said, and were just starting to ease last week.

Even with her original secondment extended to 18 months, Butler will not have much time left to work in Ramallah. Her secondment will end in early April, and she will return to Canada for a new posting in Kings County, P.E.I.

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