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It’s safe to say that Peter Ashworth doesn’t see the world around him the way most people do. As the new security manager for the University of Lethbridge, that stands out as one of his greatest assets.
Ashworth spent 30 years in London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), working in every capacity from uniform patrol to royal family and diplomatic protection to his penultimate post, as head of the intelligence unit at Heathrow Airport responsible for crime and counter-human smuggling.
So when he moved with his wife Ingrid to Lethbridge to retire, it’s not surprising that he couldn’t just shut his instincts off and slow down.
“We came to Lethbridge in 2007 and I spent two months golfing, fishing, shooting and got really, really bored,” says Ashworth. “I like to be challenged and I need to be busy.”
Ashworth is taking over for the retired Bill Krysak and brings plenty of experience to the University. A man of many interests and talents, he is a veteran of six years of military service that included three active duty tours of Northern Ireland and work in counter-terrorism.
He has an education certificate, an honours bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in management, all achieved after the age of 42. He has helped develop models for the training of intelligence officers and been at the forefront of the use of analytical concepts and information gathering to help thwart crime.
“I’ve done some stuff,” he laughs.
That Ashworth would wind up in an educational setting is fitting, as he credits his going to post-secondary school as a life-altering moment. Having been in policing for more than 15 years when he first started at University of Greenwich, Ashworth describes the negativity surrounding policing.
“You’re either dealing with a victim who has just been traumatized or you’re dealing with criminals and it’s very easy to fall into a siege mentality, where it’s them or us,” he says. “To go to university and suddenly be exposed to people of all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds and learn they actually had different opinions was quite a freeing experience.
“It is enlightening to sit there and kick around ideas and break those hang-ups we tend to develop. I found it quite liberating and it changed my life, no two ways about it.”
His detective work and career focus on the intelligence field dovetailed nicely with his psychology studies.
Following 9/11, his counter-terrorism responsibilities at Heathrow took on a whole new emphasis and he began to realize how important the gathering of intelligence could be in curbing threats.
“It was amazing that once I’d done the training and started to do the tasking and the analysis, I found I could actually be responsible for catching just as many criminals flying a desk as I could driving a patrol car, which I thought was pretty good,” he says.
Working security at the U of L, in what amounts to a small city, calls for the same sort of analysis.
“I want to increase the type of information that we gather and then apply those analytical concepts to see if there’s a need here for us to actually do intelligence led patrolling,” says Ashworth.
He also wants to apply his background as a training officer to the security staff so that they are not only well trained but regularly and repeat trained.
“Although I’m here for the safety of the assets and the people here at the U of L, I constantly have to think about the business of the University,” he says. “We’re thought of as a non-productive unit because there is no tangible output of our services but arguably, by preventing that fire before it spreads, we’ve probably saved the University millions because the building is still intact.”
While his wife Ingrid took retirement seriously, stepping away from her successful business management role with Arcadia Group fashion retail, the couple is busy immersing itself in Canadian culture.
“We have a very large social circle and they’re all Canadians,” says Ashworth. “We actually deliberately set out to avoid ex Pats, not because we have anything against the British but we came to Canada to experience Canadian life and you can’t do that if you just hang around with your British mates.”
GET THE FACTS
• Ashworth says he and Ingrid will return to Britain eventually where his two sons, 38 and 40, still reside
• He and Ingrid have been married for 39 years, having met when Ashworth was stationed in Germany with the British armed forces and would visit the bar she managed
• The couple literally toured Alberta looking for a place to live, spending time in Calgary, Brooks, Medicine Hat and Pincher Creek before settling on Lethbridge.
“Just as you come down into the coulees off Hwy 3, and it was that perfect set of circumstances, the sky was blue not a cloud to see, everything was green and it was just breathtaking. The more we stayed here, the more we fell in love with the place.”
• Since settling in Lethbridge, Ashworth has taught courses at Lethbridge College and Reeve’s College and served as security manager at the Lethbridge Casino
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