SFU prof invested as an Officer of the Order of Merit for career of fighting crime

Photo courtesy of Ryan Prox
Photo courtesy of Ryan Prox

Fighting crime has put SFU adjunct professor and Vancouver Police Department officer Ryan Prox into numerous critical roles during his career-while also finding time to teach popular forensic and criminal intelligence analysis courses. In recognition of his work, which includes ongoing roles with the United Nations Office of Project Services, the International Criminal Court, and the European Union in developing countries, Prox has been invested as an Officer of the Order of Merit.

The national honour is the second highest that can be bestowed by the governor general-only the Order of Canada is higher; 218 individuals have been invested as an Officer of the Order of Merit, while more than 7,200 have received the Order of Canada. Prox, who is currently a visiting faculty member in SFU-s School of Criminology, also received a Police Exemplary Service Medal.

The Officer of the Order of Merit is awarded to those individuals who have made a significant contribution both at a national and international level throughout their career and who have demonstrated exemplary service.

Over the years, tours of duty have taken him throughout the Middle East, including the West Bank, Palestine, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the country of Georgia. He has also spent time training the Palestinian Civil Police in intelligence-led policing and helping them to implement transparency and accountability in their police operations.

-Through the pandemic I was able to continue my work overseas with special travel exemptions, but it was not without its challenges,- says Prox, who at one point battled severe illness while working in a developing country.

-My current work with the UN Office of Project Services involves providing legal review and guidance to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the protection of fundamental rights. Our goal is to prevent and fight crime related to hybrid and emerging threats, civil protection and border management, and provide oversight of the security sector.-

The international roles are on top of his VPD duties and SFU teaching. Prox continues to work at the VPD as the officer in charge of the crime analytics advisory and development unit (CAADU), which is responsible for improving policing services to the community.

He has also taught criminology courses at SFU-s Surrey campus for more than a decade as part of SFU-s Police Studies program. The courses-which typically draw long waiting lists of students-also connect with a virtual forensic analysis lab physically housed at the SFU Surrey campus, the first of its kind in North America when it opened in 2015.

The lab was designed with industry standard software and fitted with tools originally designed for law enforcement and intelligence agency personnel only. Besides analytical techniques students learn about legal precedents and evidentiary rules guiding analytical practices.

One course was eventually adapted as a professional development course through SFU Lifelong Learning.

-Today, it is cloud-based and can be accessed from anywhere in the world,- says Prox. -Students get hands-on experience in data analysis that qualifies them for job opportunities in defence and security.

-In fact, a big selling feature that seems to have caught on with the criminology student body is the employment opportunities that arise from taking my class-this past semester I have five students either pursuing advanced education in crime analytics or are in the process of being hired.-

Prox has a PhD in artificial intelligence (AI) and created Canada’s first AI-enabled crime forecasting system. He has also been recognized with an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement-a prestigious award from the international association of chiefs of police granted by their international body, which acknowledges international contributions to policing-and the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA) Award of Excellence.

He is also co-author of the first Canadian-published textbook on the topic, titled Crime and Intelligence Analysis in Canada: An Introduction, and will continue to teach at SFU in the new year.