Questions of Black, White and Gray

I have been fielding many questions and emails about the recruiting process for the Vancouver Police Department and what the general requirements are to become a police officer.  As a result, the FAQ’s section has more links to the VPD’s Recruiting website where most of those questions can be answered.

Some of the questions I have been asked do not relate directly to the application process itself, but are about my experiences in the actual job.  Questions like “Do you like your job?” to “Do you regret ever becoming an officer?” to “What is it like to be a woman in what many still consider a male dominated profession?”

Hopefully, by reading this blog, most of those questions can be answered as well.  But to take it further, reader ‘Jane Doe’ (I promised I wouldn’t reveal her identity) recently sent me an email. A portion of her letter and my response are copied below, and may fill in a few more of the blanks I am slowly trying to fill.


Dear Constable Sandra Glendinning,

I am looking into a career in policing.  I’ve been to information sessions here in Ontario and have spoken to recruiters, but I still feel I am missing some information. I have all the black and white information, but perhaps the gray is missing.  Perhaps you can give me some advice.
Do you ever regret entering policing?
What sort of questions should I be asking myself about policing?
Every officer I’ve spoken to here in Ontario say “they like what they do, that there are good days and bad.”  They all say for me to go to an information session and then ‘we’ll talk’.
I know a supportive family helps, and I am ready to train and give 100%.  Cst. Glendinning, can you give me some insight?

Thank you for your time,

‘Jane Doe’


Here was my response:


Hello Jane,
Thank you for sending your email, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
Policing is a career I never regret getting into.  I first considered policing after listening to a police woman speak about her job during a ‘Career Night’ at my high school many years ago – Thank you, Linda Stewart.  I knew from her stories and my personality that policing would be a good fit.
The officers you have spoken to in Ontario are right – there are good days and then there are bad, just like any other job.  But I really do think the good days in policing are better than the good days at other most other places of employment. 
Good days in policing are when a call ends well, when a victim is rescued, when a serial robber or rapist is finally caught.  Good days in policing happen after officers put not just their energy and experience into solving a case, but also some of their emotion and their heart.  Good days are when you really have made a difference in someones life.  The elation can last for weeks, and a ‘good’ case usually becomes a favorite to retell years later.
On the flip side, bad days in policing are, for the most part, much worse than those in other jobs.  Because of the emotion, blood, sweat and tears put into some cases there are dark days when such a case ends poorly or without the desired result.  When a victim is found dead, when a bad guy slips through our net, when an officer is injured or killed.  Those are dark days indeed.
Someone once told me that working in K9 would be an extension of that – as K9 officers we experience the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.  I’ve been through both ends of the spectrum, and I can tell you the person who told me that was right.  Some of my best moments in policing have been experienced during my time as a K9 officer.  Some of my most difficult times have been as a K9 officer as well, but even then, I have never once regretted my career choice.  Policing is in my blood, and I could not imagine doing anything else.  
So when looking into a career in policing, you have to ask yourself if your personality is a good fit.  Are you able to think on your feet?  Are you willing to train and work hard and be a team player?  Are you able to understand that there will be bad days and that you will have to come up with a coping strategy to get you through them?  Are you able to understand that there will also be good days, and those days will be made so much sweeter by the hell you witness on a regular basis? 
The rules and laws of Canada are in black and white, but the beauty of policing is all in the shades of gray.  Your recruiters are right – go to an info session.  Speak to as many officers as you can. Try and get on a ride along (if permitted in your area), or volunteer at the police station.  Spend time evaluating your own personality, and if you truly believe you are a good fit for policing, then stick with it. 
Best of luck, and thanks for reading,


It’s the gray bits everyone wants to know about, but they are also the bits hardest to put into words. 

It’s easy to explain why I gave someone a speeding ticket, or why I arrested a person for assault as those are infractions and crimes clearly laid out in our criminal justice system.  It’s all the stuff in between the lines that make this job what it is, and often, you have to have been there to be really appreciate the subtleties. 

By sharing some of my experiences, which in essence are experiences shared by almost all officers, I’m hoping to bring the ‘have to have been there’ aspect to a bigger audience to show that police officers are regular people who have simply been exposed to more of life’s underbelly.


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10 Responses to "Questions of Black, White and Gray"

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