This Week in Policing…sort of – June 7, 2009

This post is past due, but after having spent the last several days in an area with no access to modern technology (internet connection, cell phones, television, radio – heck, I couldn’t even get a newspaper, and it was glorious), I’m a little behind on what has been going on in the GVRD.  Being in the backwoods of Beautiful British Columbia has that effect on people…

So instead of re-capping the week’s police related news, I’m going to comment on the differences between policing in a major urban center and policing in a rural environment.  

My experiences as a police officer for the VPD are going to be very similar to those of officers working for the larger departments across this country.  Every day, I am surrounded by dozens and sometimes hundreds of Vancouver police officers, all of us doing what we do best. 

We rest assured knowing our comrades are there beside us, and that help is only a few moments away should we need it.  We are highly trained, but there are experts readily available if we have a question.  We have the experience to back up tactical decisions, but we have the resources of a full time ERT/SWAT section to turn to when a situation dictates a higher response.  We are known for always searching out the facts, but we have the best investigators leading our important files. 

Then there are police officers who work in very small towns or with very small detachments.  Often, these members are the only officer working on a shift.  They are the first responder, the tactical decision maker, and the investigator all at the same time. 

Last year, I listened to a presentation given by one such officer.  This police officer spoke of getting transferred to a one-member detachment in Canada’s far North.  The ground was frozen under three feet of permanent snow, transportation was via snow mobile, and all supplies were flown in.  It was described as an experience like no other. 

The officer reflected back on early meetings with many of the town’s five hundred citizens, most of which were positive and neighborly in the way those of us from the big cities would like to think they would be; the giving of welcoming gifts, a promise of help with the shoveling of snow, an invitation for dinner and coffee. 

Then there was one introduction when the officer realized just how lonely a one-member detachment can be.

In a bout of drunkenness, a few of the locals arrived at the officers home in the middle of the night.  There was much yelling and door hammering and calling to come out and ‘fight like a man’. The inebriated group continued their barrage of insults and intimidation, eventually losing interest when they thought the officer was not home.

But the officer had been home – armed with a shotgun, barricaded in a room, and unable to radio for help. 

You might ask yourself, “Why didn’t the officer just tell them to bug off?”, or “Why didn’t the officer just ignore them?”

I’ll tell you why – the officer was a woman.

Kinda changes the dynamics a bit, doesn’t it?

The officer kept her wits about her, and did what she had to do.  She realized there would be no reasoning with a bunch of drunk men, so she sat as quiet as a church mouse and waited for them to leave, which they eventually did. 

Smart girl.

This officer’s story put it all in perspective.  I work in a big city.  I have the luxury of knowing I am never really alone when I’m at work.  Any one of my fellow officers would drop whatever it was they were doing if I needed help and called for it.  If I had a group of drunks on my front porch trying to goad me into coming out to ‘fight like a man’, my one phone call would have the calvary coming at full charge.  Not because the responding officers know me personally, or have worked with me, or are friends of mine, but because we all wear the same uniform.

It also makes me wish I had been there to help out with the other officer’s midnight welcome wagon.

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