Why I Support the Police…and Want them Watched All of the Time

Police HeroI am a child of 9/11. I was working in the Southern Saskatchewan oil patch as a lowly swamper for a drilling rig moving and trucking company on that day. I remember very clearly that we were at the shop getting ready very early for going out on a rig move that day when I overheard on the gin pole truck driver’s radio that a passenger plane had struck the World Trade Centre. I remembered that I knew of a previous instance wherein a plane had struck the Empire State Building completely by accident, so I didn’t think that much of it, except that it was a tragedy. As we drove to work, we all heard that the second plane struck, and then the word “attack” started to be used. I won’t go blow by blow of all my reactions and experiences of that paradigm altering day, but a very Canadian thing occurred.

I think it was in Yellowknife where a Korean passenger jet was reported as being out of contact and suddenly CF-118s had been scrambled, and then it had landed. As it landed, I watched part of it on TV. The ground crew and whoever else was running and scurrying away from the plane, fearing that it might blow up, or that gunmen might emerge, we had no idea at that point, everyone was just scared. But I saw the RCMP moving in the opposite direction of everyone else. These were members who were stationed in Canada’s far north, they were not trained and equipped to deal with a terrorist attack, but they were the thin red line, if they were going to be the only ones standing between an attack and the citizens of Canada on that day, they would do it, and they were ready to lay down their lives if necessary.

Now, it turned out to be a complete false alarm and nothing at all came of it, but on that day I was convinced and have never veered from that conviction that the police are, at their hearts, heroes.

That being said, they can also be giant d-bags.

Now, I am certain that they don’t go into work wanting to be, but everyone, myself especially, has bad days. Sometimes you snap at someone, sometimes you bend the rules a little because you just can’t take it anymore, and sometimes you are harder on those you have authority over than you need to be.

But the police are given enormous power. For the most part, they are the only people empowered by the state in Western Democracies to visit violence upon civilians. They are given wide range in making decisions in the moment as they need to apply force, and are authorised and directed to enforce the laws of the land against those who would not follow them willingly.

If I have a bad day, I may hurt office-mates feelings. If something goes wrong when I do paperwork, I might embarrass myself or my company and have to redo it or face some other consequence. But if my heroes, the police have a bad day, someone’s life may be ruined. Or a life may be lost.

I know it is an inevitable consequence of a civil society that we are going to need some kind of organised police force to protect and serve the people, and I get that in this decidedly non-Pollyanna world that we inhabit that they may have to apply various levels of force, up to and including the deadliest of force. And I know that they carry the sword for the state and that their vocation is sanctioned and approved by God, who is pleased by their work. St. Paul writes about the sword in Romans 13 when he says “Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The police are one of the vocations in the modern world that bear the sword in the name of those that are in authority.

However, I also know what it is like to receive the business end of a hard police boot or to be smacked repeatedly with the big flashlight that they carry only to be released with no record of the interaction ever having occurred. I know what it is like to feel powerless as a police officer destroys or damages your property and you know that you have no recourse. And I know what it is like for a previously completely polite and super-nice person to become aggressively hostile when you assert, very politely, your rights.

I have watched a previously polite and kind man go purple with rage and begin screaming at the words, “I do not consent to a search, sir, am I being detained?”

And I know enough of these people; in my family, who I work out with, and amongst my friends, to know that these are basically regular folks who have an abnormal desire to help serve and protect people.

I once was driven in the back of a cruiser when I was much younger by an RCMP member who then found a quiet spot and pulled me out, handcuffed and 60 pounds lighter than he, and proceeded to beat me up, pretty bad. Then he took the cuffs off, and then “challenged me to a fight” and called me all manner of homophobic slurs as I lay on the frozen ground – bleeding and crying – humiliated. He seemed to realise what he was doing at the end, made sure I was going to be OK, got me up and walking back to town, and then left me there ashamedly watching his lights head down the gravel road. After the rage left, I did see regret in his eyes. And who knows: for all I know he was one of those in Yellowknife years later who ran to lay down his life. Maybe this flawed man was a hero?

I mean, I believe that the very act of becoming a police officer makes one a hero. You are taking on a thankless job and getting crapped on all of the time for it. I not only think you are a hero, but you are admired by me, every day in a variety of ways.

But I want body and cruiser cameras. I want your voice recorded when interacting with anyone in the public. I want every single decision you make to be reviewed and second guessed. I have seen the extremes of what the police are capable of. Part of your heroism is that you are held to an insanely higher standard than everyone else. That is why you deserve such honour.

So when I campaign for greater restrictions on your actions, or want body cameras, or second guess your actions please know that it is not because I think you a villain. I hold you to that standard because I think you a hero.

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