I know I said my next post would be about my top 10 songs for stretching after a workout. But after the recent events in Moncton, I’ve been thinking a lot about certain things like the media, and the effects of having a stressful or dangerous job on people’s lives. So that is what I want to talk about today.
For those of you that aren’t aware, a male suspect, armed with a rifle, a shotgun, and a crossbow, was seen walking around Moncton, New Brunswick on June 4. When police responded to investigate, the suspect ambushed them, shooting five members of the RCMP. Three of the officers passed away and two were injured. The RCMP arrested the suspect just over a day later, and he now faces first degree murder and attempted murder charges. I won’t give the suspect any publicity by publishing his name, which is something that leads me to my first observation about the media.
As has become quite common during big news stories, there was a lot of activity on Facebook regarding this tragedy. My feed was probably more saturated than most people’s, just based on the number of police and peace officer friends I have. It was similar in nature to other events where the police have been victims of extreme violence, such as Mayerthorpe in 2005. But as I was reading the different articles and status updates, I noticed something different. And it was really good. The “Sun News Network” posted the story, explaining everything that they knew at that point (I can’t remember if it was before or after the arrest). But they didn’t include the suspect’s name in the article. And that was on purpose. They left his name out specifically because he probably wanted to be famous. They left his name out for the exact reason why other news networks and websites don’t. Because it’s sensational and it gets views. They left his name out for the exact reason that Wikipedia’s page regarding the incident has four times as much information about the suspect than the victims. Because it gets views. But the Sun News Network took a stand and honoured the victims instead of the suspect. I can’t express to you how that made me feel. In my mind, that is absolutely how the media should approach things like this. Those officers made the ultimate sacrifice while defending the public. They should be honoured well beyond their friends and family and fellow officers. And for the first time, a media outlet took a stand and put the attention back where it belongs: with the heroes of the story.
The other thing I noticed during this tragedy was the overwhelming support from the public. People lined up outside police stations to shake the hands of officers, just to say “thank you”. Mountains of flowers and cards were left at the steps of the detachment in memory of the officers. A website was set up to collect donations for the families, among countless other things.
Now this is not completely unusual, but in a world where the police are so often scrutinized for their actions (and usually in a negative way), it is very refreshing to see so many people in support of them. I usually don’t blame the public (or even the media) for holding the police to an extremely high standard. I understand that people have an expectation of the police that is for the most part justified. And perception is everything. So when the media shows a story of police brutality, or a seemingly unlawful arrest, it can be difficult to consider other viewpoints regarding that situation. This is because we are naturally inclined to agree with someone’s opinion, if it’s presented in a thoughtful and organized manner (which news stories often are). So given the amount of stories regarding police allegedly misbehaving, it is really satisfying so see so many stories about how much the public is standing up in support of the fallen officers. It’s a welcome departure from the norm.
But please don’t get me wrong. I know that for the most part, the public does support the police. But when the media is so saturated in negativity surrounding the police, it is sometimes hard to remember that. The point that I am trying to make while talking about the media and public perception is that the public, for the most part, just does not understand the job of a law enforcement officer. They can analyze, they can critique, they can judge, and they can comment. But they will never understand what it’s like unless they actually do the job.
This brings me to my next point, which is to say that anyone who works in law enforcement has a tough job, to say the least. Now I do work in the law enforcement field, but I am not a police officer, and I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be a police officer either. But I do however respond to the same kind of calls that the police do, and deal with all the same people the police do. I’ve been spit on more times than I can count. I’ve been called every name you could possibly imagine. Sometimes random people will come up to me and start swearing at me, complaining that I am racist or sexist. They will claim to know everything about my job, including exactly why I am terrible at it. And they will offer their negative opinions on everything about me, including my meager salary, my spouse, or my terrible physical appearance. And this is just an example of the things I can expect to hear from people I am not even dealing with. The things I hear from “suspects” are often much worse. I’ve been physically assaulted countless times. I have been randomly attacked. I have had knives pulled on me, and my life has been threatened. I have close friends who have even had guns pulled out on them. But again, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not in any way trying to minimize what the Moncton officers went through. What I am trying to say is that all members of the law enforcement community often pay a steep price for putting on the uniform and protecting the public.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to seek help from a psychologist for some of the emotional problems I have had as a result of incidents at work. But the officers in Moncton don’t have that option. Despite all of the terrible things I have seen in my career, none of them have come close to causing the kind of pain that these officers’ families now have to endure. They ran into danger when all others were fleeing. They stood fast to defend the rights of good people (and even bad people), despite thoughts of their families waiting for them at home, worrying sick. They ignored every fibre of their being screaming “RUN!”, and instead faced the danger despite shaking hands and rapidly beating hearts. They did this for you. They did this for me. And if they were still with us today, they would do it again and again. They would continue to do this every single time they put on that uniform, until the day they have been called upon for the last time.
The police sign up for the job because of an ideal. They sign up for the job because they believe in something greater than themselves. They do it because they believe that they have been called upon to wear the badge. They have a special gift to be able to look into the face of danger and say defiantly “not tonight”. To them, policing is not a job or a career, but it is a calling. They do not want to be heroes, and they do not want recognition. They want to fight for people who don’t have the strength to fight alone. They want to stand up for everything and everyone that is good in this world, and they will do anything to defend those beliefs. But despite all of these great attributes, police officers are not invincible. They are human like you and I. They are vulnerable to knives and bullets, and to words and gestures. They do their best to stay calm and professional in extraordinary circumstances, but sometimes they fail. Sometimes police officers make bad choices and let their emotions dictate their actions. Sometimes police officers take insults personally, and sometimes they let their egos get the better of them. And sometimes they have to make the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their life to defend these ideals that they believe so strongly in. If you are reading this post, I ask you – please, think about all of these things the next time you see a police officer. Think of these things when you see those red and blue lights behind you. Because in the end, it’s you and your family that they are trying to protect. So instead of thinking “why me?” or “doesn’t he have anything better to do?”, tell the officer “thank you”, or “I appreciate the service you give us”. I can promise you with certainty that you will make that officer’s day.
In closing, I want to quote something one of my friends posted on facebook. This post made me tear up a bit. He is a police officer.
“Why do we bow our heads and solute in the rain today? Because we have lost friends and family, loved ones, brothers in uniform… because we lost good men, good humans, fathers, sons, and brothers. Take the time, please to remember our friends, no matter what uniform you wear. We are here for you in the night when you need us the most, we are there to help when you cry out, when you reach my hand will be there, my strength will be yours, and my body to shield you from pain. We are sad, we are lost for words, and we are hurt. However today we take time, for tomorrow we will be at the ready. Our promise to you, our families, our friends, and communities. We will stand on guard. To the families that lost their loved ones, no matter where you go, you will have family who love you and will share your pain. I am so sorry for you loss, so sorry for you pain. RIP Brothers… I promise I will look out for your families, even if in just prayer”.
This is a prayer I used to say before every shift. I now say this prayer every day, in hopes of helping every man and woman who puts on a uniform to stand up for what is right:
“Dear God, I ask you today, to lend us your might. Give us the strength to do what is right, and take us all home tonight”.
Police and Peace Officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty in Canada since 2004:
Cst Fabrice Georges Gevaudan – RCMP, June 4, 2014
Cst Douglas James Larche – RCMP, June 4, 2014
Cst David Ross – RCMP, June 4, 2014
Cst Joseph Prevett – Thunder Bay Police, May 7, 2014
Cst John Zivcic – Toronto Police, December 2, 2013
Cst Michael Pegg – York Regional Police, November 29, 2013
Conservation Officer Justin Knackstedt, Saskatchewan, May 31, 2013
Cst Jennifer Kovach – Guelph Police, March 14, 2013
Cst Steve Dery – Kativik Police, March 2, 2013
Fish & Wildlife Officer Howard Lavers, Newfoundland & Labrador, February 21, 2013
Cst Adrian Oliver – RCMP, November 13, 2012
Cst Donovan Lagrange – Quebec, October 6, 2012
Cst Katia Hadouchi – Quebec, September 26, 2012
Peace Officer Rod Lazenby – Foothills Protective Services, August 12, 2012
Cst Derek Pineo – RCMP, July 20, 2012
Officer Vincent Roy – Bromont Police, December 1, 2011
Cst Garrett Styles – York Regional Police, June 28, 2011
Sgt Ryan Russell – Toronto Police, January 12, 2011
Cst Sebastien Coghlan-Goyette – Quebec, November 14, 2010
Cst Michael Potvin – RCMP, July 13, 2010
Cst Chelsey Robinson – RCMP, June 21, 2010
Cst Vu Pham – Ontario Provincial Police, March 8, 2010
Cst Artem Otchakovski – Peel Regional Police – March 1, 2010
Sgt Mark Gallagher – RCMP, January 12, 2010
Supt Doug Coates – RCMP, January 12, 2010
Cst Ireneusz Czapnik – Ottawa Police, December 29, 2009
Cst Melanie Roy – Quebec, September 7, 2009
Prob. Cst Alan Hack – Ontario Provincial Police, July 6, 2009
Cst James Lundblad – RCMP, May 5, 2009
Cst Eric Lavoie – Quebec, September 8, 2008
Correctional Officer Joseph Mckeown – Alberta Solicitor General, July 22, 2008
Cst Douglas Scott – RCMP, November 5, 2007
Cst Christopher Worden – RCMP, October 6, 2007
Cst Robert Plunkett – York Regional Police, August 2, 2007
Cst Daniel Tessier – Laval Police, March 2, 2007
Cst David Mounsey – Ontario Provincial Police, November 13, 2006
Cst Marc Bourdages – RCMP, July 16, 2006
Cst Robin Cameron – RCMP, July 15, 2006
Sr. Cst Don Doucet – Sault St. Marie Police, May 14, 2006
Sr. Cst John Atkinson – Windsor Police, May 5, 2006
Cst John Goyer – Abbotsford Police, April 19, 2006
Cst Valerie Gignac – Laval Police, December 14, 2005
Wildlife Protection Officer Fernand Vachon – Quebec, November 5, 2005
Wildlife Protection Officer Nicolas Rochette – Quebec, November 5, 2005
Cst Daniel Rathonyi – Niagra Regional Police, September 15, 2005
Cst Andrew Potts – Ontario Provincial Police, July 20, 2005
Cst Jose Agostinho – RCMP, July 4, 2005
Cst Jean Minguy – RCMP, June 3, 2005
Cst Peter Schiemann – RCMP, March 3, 2005
Cst Brock Myrol – RCMP, March 3, 2005
Cst Lionide Johnston – RCMP, March 3, 2005
Cst Anthony Gordon – RCMP, March 3, 2005
Cst Michael Siydock – Ontario Provincial Police, November 26, 2004
Aux. Cst Glen Evely – RCMP, November 13, 2004
Customs Inspector Adam Angel – Canada Customs, October 17, 2004
Parole Officer Louise Pargeter – Canada Corrections, October 6, 2004
Cst Tyler Boutilier – Ontario Provincial Police, May 23, 2004
Cst Chris Garrett – Cobourg Police, May 15, 2004
Cpl James Galloway – RCMP, February 28, 2004