A Little Respect Goes a Long Way

While I was going through my initial recruit training, one of the senior officers on my team told me a little respect goes a long way, especially in the world of policing. 

He went on to say that even though we were working in the Downtown Eastside, an area where drug addiction, crime and homelessness were (and still are) an every day occurrence, the residents of the area deserved to be treated with respect.  A struggle with addiction and being a pawn in the revolving-door of our Justice System didn’t mean these people were monsters.  This officer’s theory reserved ‘monster status’ for the drug dealers, the violent criminals and those who preyed on the weak and defenseless.

I paid attention to what this officer taught me.  Just because a woman had given a part of herself away to support a debilitating drug habit didn’t mean she had lost her soul; she was a still a human being with human connections – emotions, a sense of self, a right to live her life to the fullest.  And just because a elderly man was living on pennies didn’t mean he had squandered away his life savings on booze and drugs- it could be he was a war veteran living on the pittance of a disability pension.

These people, this senior officer told me, were the ones we served and had sworn to protect.  His words struck a chord and I aimed to have the same outlook.

Of course, not everyone I’ve encountered through my career has gotten my respect on our first meeting.  I tend to have a different perspective of a person when he (or she) is wielding a weapon, actively engaged in a violent altercation, or engaged in some other type of criminal behaviour that needs to be dealt with immediately.  Such is the nature of the job. 

But it’s your dealings with these people on calmer occasions that can prove be of assistance when you most need the help.

About a year later found me twelve months into what would become an eight year assignment to the Downtown Eastside.  My partner at the time was off for the shift, so I was patrolling as a one-officer unit when I came upon an on-view robbery.  A male suspect was beating another male out on the sidewalk in the 100 East Hastings.  It clearly wasn’t a consensual fight as the victim was curled into a ball on the ground  and trying to hang onto his wallet as the suspect rained down punches and kicks. 

After advising dispatch of the incident and requesting a cover unit, I jumped out of my patrol car to go stop the assault.  I sized the suspect up (he was bigger than me) and my mind zipped through my ‘use of force options’ in about 2.3 nanoseconds.  I took out my OC Spray, yelled STOP, POLICE!, and sent a blast into the suspect’s eyes when he looked up.  The OC Spray only had a partial affect on him as he was what we called a ‘goal oriented subject’.  With one eye closed the suspect growled and continued to beat the victim. 

Well, in for a penny in for a pound, and the victim was still getting hurt.  I tackled the guy. 

We hit the ground in a tangle of arms and legs and the fight was on.  He was yelling, trying to get away.  I was trying to pin him down and get the handcuffs on but was still having trouble hanging onto him.  Like I said, he was goal oriented and didn’t seem too keen on going to jail. 

The sound of police sirens was getting closer (it’s a grand sound when in such a situation) when all of a sudden a pair of jeaned knees came out of nowhere and landed on the suspect.  I looked up, expecting to see a plainclothes officer and startled a bit when it wasn’t an officer’s face just inches from mine but the scraggly beard covered one of a Downtown Eastside resident.  He gave me a quick smile before yelling at the suspect, “Stop fighting her – she’s a fair one!”

When the dust settled and the suspect was in handcuffs, I went to thank my helper.  He shrugged it off saying I had been nice to him a few weeks before when conducting a persons-check and it looked as if I could have used a bit of assistance.  Then he shambled off, refusing to provide a statement.  He didn’t want to get involved; he just hadn’t wanted to see me get hurt.

This was the first time someone I had dealt with on a previous occasion had gone out of their way to assist me, but such an occurrence has happened a few more times since.  It’s proof that even though we, as police, usually deal with people at their worst, these same people remember us and how we treat them.  It’s important to never forget this.

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2 Responses to "A Little Respect Goes a Long Way"

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