These days, Al Burns is feeling a little bit like a new student on campus.
While Carleton’s new Director of Safety has 34 years of policing experience under his belt, Burns admits he has a lot to learn in his new role at the university and he’s anxious to get down to work.
“I have to learn about the operations of the (safety) section but I also have to learn about the operations of the university – how things work here, who’s who, things like that. The first little while is very much going to be about learning,” says Burns, who is taking over from Len Boudreault, who retired in the spring.
Over the course of his policing career, Burns has done it all – forensics, patrolling the streets of Ottawa, he’s been a detective and a senior manager.
So, what does he think the differences will be?
“Life at Carleton will be the difference,” says Burns.
“Policing really revolves around the community that you serve … and this is basically going to be a move to a different community. Carleton is a community with different aspects – from the students who study here, the students that live here, the faculty, the staff,” he says.
“Perhaps the most interesting part of this job is going to be learning how that community works and how I can fit in to serve it.”
His immediate priority will be to learn his new position. He has heard great things about the high level of professionalism of the safety team, and about the strong working relationships his department has with the Ottawa police, the Ottawa fire department and the Ottawa ambulance service.
Although he was a police officer for more than three decades, Burns says wasn’t ready to retire. That’s why, when the opportunity to work at Carleton presented itself, he thought it would be a great fit. He also believes that his strong connection to the Ottawa Police Service will assist in maintaining the strong ties the university has with that organization.
“I’m not ready to become a full-time golfer just yet. … It’s a good fit for me and I hope it will be a good fit for Carleton. I’m quite excited about moving to this next stage of my career.”
When asked about his management style, Burns describes it as “co-operative” and “relaxed” and that he expects people to conduct themselves with integrity and a high level of professionalism.
“I like to ensure that the people who are working with me have a say in what’s going on,” he adds.
“I think it’s really important to develop a working relationship where people want to come to work. That’s very, very important. I think that exists now and if I can find a way to make that environment even better for the people that work here, that will be something that I want to work towards.”
He has met a couple of times with Boudreault to pick the former director of safety’s brain.
“He deserves a lot of credit. He’s done an excellent job of bringing this safety department to where it is today. I’ll be looking at picking his brain to see where I can learn from him and the things that he’s gone through, and how I might be able to build on his successes,” says Burns.
Does he feel like a new student on campus?
“Almost,” he says with a chuckle.
Al Burns at a glance:
Favourite food: Pasta
Family: married with two kids
Hobbies: Scouting and fishing
His strength: “My personality.”
His weakness: “My personality.”