I get tired of reading and listening to complaining critics and carping commentators about what a lousy job our RCMP are doing.
They’re an easy target these days. Nothing has done more damage to their reputation than the trigger-happy use of Tasers. That issue is highlighted by the tragic case of Robert Dziekanski, and it’s been an issue right here at home as well, in a number of incidents.
Without a doubt, the force has its share of cowboys who were born 150 years too late, who’d be better suited to the OK Corral than they are to the streets of today’s cities.
So what? Is our national police force going to be judged on the actions and attitudes of the few who have no business being in policing?
Our perceptions are often formed from personal experience, and it’s easy to find stories about people who don’t like police, who’ve encountered a cranky cop who’s having a bad shift.
I’ve led a life of modest privilege, I suppose, but I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad personal experience with police.
Once in awhile, some young cop who doesn’t know his law will try to interfere with one of our reporters or photographers at a crime or accident scene. And, we have disagreements with RCMP brass from time to time on how media and police can best work with each other. Those situations are few.
On a personal level, I haven’t dealt with police often but, when I have, they’ve been professional and understanding.
I think our police are a lot more like Const. George Buttles than the four Taser slingers who went after Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.
Buttles stood up at a meeting of the North Shore BIA this week to say what a pleasure it is working with the North Shore community, and how important it is for police “to get out of their freaking cars and walk around.”
He was talking about foot patrols, which epitomize community policing. That’s where police get to know the people they serve, and vice versa, and try to prevent crime rather than just clean up the messes.
Community policing came back to Kamloops with Supt. Jim Begley, who heads up the local detachment. His commitment to that kind of policing was one of the main reasons he was hired four years ago.
One of the first things he did was launch a series of public consultation meetings to find out what people wanted from their police force.
Not long after, he was joined at the detachment by Insp. Yves Lacasse, and it’s been a match made in hell for the crooks. They put together a five-year plan, put cops back on the street and back on community organizations and committees, and started going after bad guys.
They’ve directed policing resources at the city’s most prolific offenders, taken on a restorative justice program, closed down crack houses, beefed up after-dark street checks, rounded up street-level drug dealers, busted johns and hookers and taken on the gangs head-on.
They’ve done this in the face of seemingly endless manpower problems, rising demands for service, determined efforts by organized crime to infiltrate our community, and day-to-day pressures and risks the rest of us only have to contend with on TV.
I spent a couple of days at Depot in Regina a few years ago — that’s where RCMP cadets receive their training. I was invited to try out one of the sophisticated electronic training simulations the cadets use to practice their skills in a variety of situations.
My simulation involved a drug bust in which I had to be alert to any of the suspects drawing a weapon or trying to escape. I walked in with my gun at the ready. I was surprised at how nervous I was. It was a simulation, after all. Yet, the hand that held the gun was sweating profusely and I was trembling.
Sure enough, one of the “suspects” raised a gun and pointed it at me. I started firing. I pulled the trigger, again and again, setting a new record, I believe, for clean misses.
Bullets flew everywhere except into the suspect. He started firing back, then turned to flee, at which point I managed to shoot him in the butt.
Had it been a real-life situation, I would, unquestionably, be dead.
You have to be a special kind of person to want a job in which people want to kill you. I’m thankful, every day, for the fact that we have police so good at what they do.
I don’t forgive the unforgivable, and I winced at some of the ridiculous testimony given this week by the police testifying at the Dziekanski inquiry.
But I don’t judge the men and women of the RCMP who protect us day in and day out in our own community based on the poor judgment of a few or the rudeness of an occasional cop who’s having a bad day.