Benefits of Training

Ecole Polytechnique.  Columbine.  Red Lake Senior High.  The Amish School. Virginia Tech.

These are only some of the school shootings that have resulted in nationwide changes to how law enforcement trains for an ‘active shooter‘.

During training, officers are armed with simunition (little paint bullets fired through the officer’s own gun) and go into a building or an area to find and stop the ‘shooter’.   A loud audio recording of gunshots, screaming and chaos increases the intensity, and the best scenarios utilize actors to portray the injured and the dead.

The training is realistic and stressful.

It’s one thing to think you can hunt down a killer, but it’s an entirely different thing to go into an unfamiliar building, step over the widening pool of blood spreading around a dead student and continue past those crying and begging for help even as you hear more gunshots in the next hallway.

This is all done to condition officers to better respond when someone is actively shooting and killing people.  It’s not pretty, it’s not for the faint of heart, and it is so, so necessary.  This sort of training is some of the best, and is an extremely important component of an officer’s mental conditioning.

So when we responded to a stabbing at a Vancouver high school last week, where multiple suspects were supposedly still at large, we utilized this training.  The goal was to enter the school and ensure the safety of students and staff, to apprehend the suspects if they were located, and to clear the school of any other related hazards.

PSD Hondo and I were a part of the second team to enter the school, which was locked down in a Code Red (where staff and students lock their doors, draw the blinds and stay away from windows and doors…another action after Columbine).  It was eerie to be searching a completely silent building while knowing there were hundreds of students and dozens of staff locked within its walls.

There were no sounds from the classrooms, no machinery noise from the woodworking or metal shops, and, with the exception of the two police search pods, no movement.

It became clear how frightening the situation must have been for the students as we slowly made our way through the halls.  At first glance, several of the classrooms appeared vacant and it was not until we entered that we realized many classrooms were full of students huddled against walls and hiding behind desks, student who slowly raised raised their heads or their hands in response to our announcement that the police were there.

The auditorium was empty, but there were backpacks, books and binders scattered along a number of seats.  I wondered where the students were as our footfalls echoed across the wooden stage.  The sound was hollow, loud and sort of creepy.  I knew the students were somewhere close by, but they were so quiet.

Then, when we cleared the gym, it was obvious a vigorous class had been interrupted. Boys gym bags, runners and sweatpants lined one wall, while girls satchels, ballet flats and jeans lined another.  There had to be at least three dozen kids somewhere, but where were they?  

We eventually located them, safe and all together with the exception of four boys.  Somehow, the four boys had been separated from the main group and were huddled together in the complete darkness of a little nook.  It would have unnerved me, a police officer, to be stuck in the spot they found themselves.  I can only imagine how frightened they must have been with no locked door between them and whomever the police were searching for, and they were clearly relieved when we found them and reunited them with their class.

The impressive thing was how amazingly calm the teachers were, which is a testament to how much they care about their students.  They had a job to do and they did it.  Kudos to them.  I can only hope my kids teachers have the same strength (and I believe they do…)

Clearing a school takes time, especially when it is a very large one.  Two and half hours after we arrived, we finally called the school clear.

Our training payed forward with dividends and was proof we need to continue and constantly improve what we do to be ready for the inevitable situations we will face.


“To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

– George Washington


“Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.”

– Miguel de Cervantes




No “Off” Button

If you or someone you know is in law enforcement, you are aware the majority of police officers do not come equipped with an off button.  If they see something wrong or someone in need of assistance, officers will stop and help even if they are off-duty.

Yesterday, in the few hours between opening presents and turkey dinner, hubby and I drove our dogs out to one of our favourite places to take them for a run.  To get there, you travel through an industrial area, and at mid-day on Christmas the area was a literal ghost town with everything locked up, gated and void of any human life.

On the way home, hubby noticed the man door to one of the warehouses was open.  There were no vehicles in the parking lot and no one around.  We stopped and approached the warehouse on foot (how weird to be sleuthing with hubby) and saw a ground floor window was also open.  My first thought was someone had broken in through the window, stolen all the loot they could carry, and exited via the door.

By all appearances, they were long gone.

I debated bringing Hondo with me but decided against it considering we were in a jurisdiction other than Vancouver…besides, if anyone was still in the warehouse, hubby and I were prepared to contain the place, call 911 and wait for the on-duty police to arrive, with enough time to get Hondo out of the truck in the event the suspects tried to get away before reinforcements showed up.We got closer and determined the window must be regularly left ajar, as there were undisturbed items on the window sill and an even layer of grime along the edge to show it had not been forced open.Same story for the door – it is probable never locked (tell-tale grime covered deadbolt), had no damage to the frame and had likely blown open during yesterday’s wind storm.

With hubby keeping a lookout for fleeing suspects and to avoid us being wrongly accused of doing the breaking-and-entering , I peeked through the doorway and saw the very short hallway led only to one room – the one with the open window, which happened to be a bathroom.

Ahah! The permanently open window and shoddy locking mechanisms made sense – ease of use for employees to access a bathroom from the outside work yard.

Case closed!

I share this little tidbit to illustrate how police officers are (usually) unable to ‘switch it off’.  I was on a day off and it was Christmas to boot.  Working was the last thing on my mind and was the last thing I wanted to be doing at that particular moment.

But when a situation arises, the majority police officers will answer the call regardless of official duty status.

Our ‘break-and-enter’ turned out to be nothing, but it could have been something and we were not going to keep driving by and let someone else’s property be victim to thieves.

And yes, there was a small voice in the back of my mind reminding me that for Hondo to catch a bad guy on Christmas day would be pretty sweet.  🙂






Three Years

November 28, 2008 was the launch date for this blog and there is value in the saying of “how things change, how much stays the same” as I’ve similar feelings from when the blog was launched and on its one year anniversary in 2009.

I’ll not be the one to tell you being a police officer is all roses, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.  There are long and odd hours, missed weekends and stress on the body.  The men and women who have chosen this ultimately rewarding law enforcement career know it comes with some amount of sacrifice and understand the merit of contributing to our society as a whole.

Officer’s families make similar sacrifices and it rests with the officer to ensure his or her family is acknowledged and thanked for their supporting role.  I, for one, could not do this job if it weren’t for the love and support of my husband, children, family (thanks mom and dad!) and friends, which is important, as they are the main reason behind my continued passion for and involvement in policing.  Even though I long-ago found my purpose in law enforcement, the ‘purpose’ itself is forever evolving and I am constantly evaluating what it actually is and what it means.

Everyone must find their own purpose – what is yours?


The end of 2011 is fast approaching.  Wasn’t it just last month I started my dog-handling career?  Of course not – years have passed, and I can count my time remaining as a dog handler in the same fashion new mothers give the age of their babies – 24 months, 18 months, 12 months… This time frame is the only downside to having a dog as a partner, because their lives are so much shorter than ours.  Those who have dogs in their lives, regardless if the dog is a work partner, assistance dog, pet or companion, will know exactly what I’m talking about.

The end of 2011 also brings a close to a memorable year, during which the world’s cameras were zoomed in and focused on Vancouver on June 15, 2011.

All of us know the riot is a black mark against Vancouver – it will take a while for the mark to wear away and I’m okay with that.  It should take some time for the wound to heal, because if it heals too quickly we may forget how poorly our City was treated.

Perhaps that should be one of our purposes as Vancouverites – to remain passionate about our City and to always remember what happened while at the same time not allowing it to consume us in continued anger and/or fear.  There must be continued growth, at all levels of policing and citizenship, if we are to learn from the events and the aftermath of June 15th.


From a blogging perspective, it’s a been a steady if somewhat leaner year in regards to posts.  I’ve finally added Twitter to the blog as it’s much easier to blast out information in 140 characters than to sit at a computer and craft a post….somehow, though, Twitter’s ease feels like cheating on an exam…besides, if given the choice between quality and quantity, I always prefer the former, particularly for important stuff.

Give-aways always tally the most comments (who doesn’t like free stuff??) and I’ve a couple of give-aways lined up for the new year – one is a signed novel written by a fellow VPD officer…it’s a great read and I’ll share more about it in January.

Posts on what actually happens in police work garner more focused and sometimes critical attention.  The ‘In the Line of Duty‘ series resulted in many comments and emails on the topic of when a police officer is killed and what citizens and officers can do to prevent similar tragedies.

Sgt. Ryan Russell (Toronto Metropolitan Police Service, Ontario), Constable Garrett Styles (York Regional Police Service, Ontario) and Officer Vincent Roy (Police de Bromont, Quebec) all made the ultimate sacrifice in 2011.

They will never be forgotten.



Then there’s you, the reader.  You are a lively bunch with your comments!  Even so, email tends to be the way most of you communicate, especially if you come to the blog through my articles in The Vancouver Sun.  Dozens of you get in touch every month and I read every single email.  Thank you for your continued support of police officers everywhere.

Here’s a little bit about you, the reader:

  • in order of the volume of readers, you are from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, South Africa, India, the Philippines and Spain
  • 706 of you have clicked the “Who Are You?” poll on the right side bar – I won’t list the results here as you can simply look to your right and view the results
  • you love to read and look at photos of police dogs, as every time there is a ‘give-away’, site visits skyrocket
  • you obviously care about your law enforcement officers
At the very root of it, this blog is for you.  It’s my attempt to bridge the gap between what people think happens in policing and what actually happens.  Law enforcement is glorified on television and in movies, and even though some episodes and scenes are very realistic, there remains the fact that serious crimes are rarely solved in a one hour time slot.
I hope to continue bridging the gap into 2012 and it looks like I’ll have a lot of help.  Fellow VPD police blogger Steve Addison is doing a great service by shedding light on the working lives of officers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and I’m sure more police bloggers will eventually make the leap into going public with their stories.
Christmas is in just over 48 hours from now and I am really looking forward to spending the day with my family and loved ones.  I am fortunate enough to have the day off this year and it’s a day off I will not take for granted.
To everyone – Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings – whatever you celebrate and where ever you are from – enjoy the holiday season.  May you stay safe.






How true


“Common sense is so rare that it should be classified as a Super Power.”


This quote is on someone’s Twitter profile and I was disappointed I hadn’t thought of it first.



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Posted in Quotes by Sandra. 5 Comments

An Uphill Battle

“Give someone a good childhood and you give them a good life.”

– Mike McCardell


It’s unfortunate more parents do not realize the truth in Mr. McCardell’s words, even if he should have added a disclaimer of saying you give someone more opportunity for a good life if you give them a good childhood.

Even though it does not guarantee it, a good, fair and consistent upbringing certainly prepares a child for having a happy, solid and productive adulthood.

For some parents, it is all about appearances: what their friends think, how their children’s school perceives them, what their co-workers believe.  Their perfection is but a thin veneer that cracks easily when not under public scrutiny.

Take, for instance, the call I went to a few years ago.  A neighbour called in about a loud verbal argument in the next apartment, and my partner and I heard the name calling, rude language and shouting between the parent and the teenager.  It was disturbing how the parent was screaming and swearing at the teenager.

The shouts were cut off when we knocked, and the father was smiling and gracious when he opened the door, as if he hadn’t just been telling his son how useless he was and how he wished his son would get out of his sight. The father was very good at concealing his emotions, but his son was making no effort to hide how he was feeling, and he glowered from the other side of the room.

The father went on with how everything was fine, that we did not need to be there, that they were having a discussion over his son’s grades.

But how do you think the fourteen year old son felt, having his father scream at him that he was f****** useless?  I heard the dad yelling, and he really sounded as if he meant it.

Aren’t parents the ones who are supposed to be able to maintain their cool and take a step back if they feel themselves losing it?  Maybe this was a one-off for this father and son, but something about the way they were both acting led us to believe this sort of communication was a regular occurrence.

Or look at what I witnessed this morning, on a day off, as I was out for a walk with my dog.  A mom was loading her kids into her van and couldn’t find her keys nor her travel coffee mug.

She immediately blamed her older daughter, saying, “You little f****** bitch, what did you do with my mug?  How the f*** am I supposed to get you to school on time if you keep taking my f****** keys?”

She did not realize I was coming up behind her and that I could hear everything.  It was a bit awkward when she turned around at the sound of my footfalls, and she immediately gave me an icy smile to let me know she had everything under control.  Okay, maybe her daughter routinely takes her coffee mug, or maybe it wasn’t the first time her daughter misplaced her keys, but to call her daughter a ‘little f****** bitch’ is taking it a bit far.

I can only imagine what the family dynamics are within their home, when they are secure in the knowledge that no one else is looking.  It makes me cringe.


There are many more examples of poor parenting, some far worse.  As a police officer, I’ve responded to calls where children have been beaten, sexually assaulted, abused, neglected and even killed by their parents.  Those are the more extreme cases.

But even the two examples I just gave you, where the parents lost verbal control and belittled their kids, have a lasting ripple effect.  It might start out as a small insult, a tiny dart of true cruelty or a moment of loss of control, but chances are the kids will not forget it.

I’m a parent.  I know I have made some mistakes along the way, but I have never disrespected my children like this, and perhaps that is why I find this behaviour so disturbing.

As for the mom in the van, she acts like this on a regular basis as I’ve heard her before.

Does she strike her kids?  Not that I know of.  Does she not feed them or fail to provide a roof over their heads?  No.  By some standards, she is doing all she needs to do in raising her kids.

My opinion, though, is this mom failing to provide her children the stability and security they need to be confident, self-aware and emotionally capable.  She is not setting fair boundaries and is flying off the handle when the kids fail to stay within the ever-shifting family limits.

Raising children is hard and is the single most important job parents have.  There are an unknown number of obstacles between a child and their future well-adjusted adulthood, and it is up to parents to make sure their children are equipped to deal with those challenges.

I’m not trying to turn this post into one on child-raising, but so many of our societal and criminal issues could be improved if parents did a better job of parenting.

What do you think?